Iraq: more attacks on the press

From the Boston Globe, Oct. 15:

BAGHDAD– Gunmen killed a radio journalist and kidnapped a television reporter, police said yesterday, continuing a spate of attacks that have killed 14 members of the media in recent weeks.

Hussam Ahmed, a correspondent for the independent TV station Nahrain (Two Rivers), was forced from his car at gunpoint yesterday, police said. The gunmen took him away in another car.

Police also reported the killing of another journalist, announcer Raid Qais of Sawt al Iraq (Voice of Iraq) radio, while he was driving to work in the Dora neighborhood of southwest Baghdad Friday. Qais died from gunfire, police said.

Elsewhere in Iraq, authorities yesterday reported finding 18 victims of execution in Baghdad and seven more in Duluiya, north of Baghdad, where 14 bodies also had been found Friday.

A bomb killed one person and injured two in east Baghdad. An attack on an Iraqi Army convoy outside Kirkuk left one soldier dead and two wounded.

Three other journalists recently have been kidnapped or killed in roadside attacks and gunmen killed 11 employees of a television station Thursday. A convoy of armed men, some wearing police uniforms, invaded the al-Shaabiya satellite television station and opened fire at executives, technicians and guards. General manager Abdul-Rahim Nasrallah al-Shimari was among those killed.

The attacks are raising concern that groups responsible for Iraq’s sectarian blood letting are turning their attention to the news media.

“They’re trying to hide the reality of the crimes they are committing in Iraq by killing the individuals who are transmitting that reality to the whole world,” said Ziad Ajili, head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi free speech watchdog group.

The other journalists killed recently included reporter Azad Mohammed of Dar al Salam radio station, whose body was found in a morgue Wednesday. Mohammed, 29, was kidnapped Oct. 3.

Radio announcer Mohammed Abdul Rahman, 55, of Didjla Radio was found dead Thursday. He was kidnapped in mid-September in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour, where he had moved after receiving threats.

Ali Karim, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Nabidh Shaba (Youth Pulse), was grabbed from his car in east Baghdad Monday, the Voice of Iraq reported. Iraq’s journalism syndicate received a $50,000 ransom demand.

Although many of Iraq’s media outlets have a political or tribal affiliation, most recent victims worked for organizations considered relatively independent.

Ajili said some attacks on journalists might involve political or tribal motives, but “the first thing is because they are journalists.”

“I think there is a campaign against journalism,” said Saif Qaissi, a reporter for a foreign news agency who was a friend of Qais, the slain announcer. “It has been escalating for four months.”

Qaissi said reporters covering public affairs in Iraq face a high-stakes dilemma. If they praise the government, some groups might accuse them of being tied to another group in power. If they criticize, they might be accused of trying to destabilize the country.

“They don’t realize that the journalist has to write both the failures and the successes,” he said.

See our last post on Iraq. See also our last report on the attacks on journalists.

  1. The US kills journalists too…
    From the AP, Oct. 15:

    A coroner ruled on Friday that US forces in Iraq unlawfully killed a British television journalist by shooting him in the head as he lay in the back of a makeshift ambulance during the opening days of the war.

    The widow of reporter Terry Lloyd called for the perpetrators to be prosecuted for the “despicable, deliberate, vengeful act.” And Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he would ask the attorney general to take steps to bring to justice those responsible for the death.

    But prosecution of US service members seemed unlikely.

    The US Defense Department said its forces had followed proper rules of engagement. A department spokesman said a US inquiry into the killing of Lloyd, 50, a veteran reporter for the British television network ITN, “determined that US forces followed the applicable rules of engagement.”

    “The Department of Defense has never deliberately targeted noncombatants, including journalists,” Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros said. “We have always gone to extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage.”

    The inquest was unable to determine whether the bullet that killed Lloyd in southern Iraq on March 22, 2003, was fired by US ground forces or helicopters.

    US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack described Lloyd’s death as a tragedy, but said the US investigation had found that the troops involved had not broken the law.

    In Belgium, Aidan White, the head of the International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest organization of journalists, said: “If this was murder, as the court suggests, and the US is responsible, it is certainly a war crime.”

    The London-based National Union of Journalists welcomed the coroner’s decision and also called the killing “nothing short of a war crime.”

    “The killing of journalists with impunity must never, ever go unpunished. Any attempt to silence journalists in this way must never succeed,” Jeremy Dear, the group’s general secretary, said.