Make Media Safety “Top Priority”, says IFJ After New Iraq Killings

The International Federation of Journalists warned today that safety must be a top priority for media following the killing of 5 journalists and media staff in Iraq. These deaths bring the total number of media people killed during and after the Iraq war to 36 and raise the need for urgent and practical steps to improve working conditions for journalists in the country, says the IFJ.

Yesterday, one journalist and two media staff from the local station Diyala TV were killed in an attack by armed men outside Baghdad. Late last night, in a separate attack, two reporters for Al-Arabiya satellite news channel were shot and killed by US fire in Baghdad.

“These tragic deaths underline the fact that Iraq is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It is vital that assistance is provided to reduce the risks journalists face even in this hostile atmosphere.”

The Diyala TV crew - Nadia Nasrat (reporter), Majid Rachid (technician) and Mohamad Ahmad (security guard) - were killed while traveling on a minibus in Baquba, 60 kilometres north of Baghdad. At least eight other staff members were injured.

In the second attack, Ali Abdel Aziz, an Iraqi cameraman for Al-Arabiya was killed and correspondent, Ali al-Khatib, also Iraqi, was seriously wounded by US fire in Baghdad. He died of his injuries hours later. The news-team had gone to cover an attack on the Burj al-Hayat hotel and US forces who cordoned off the area opened fire. Al-Arabiya employees said the Iraqis were driving in central Baghdad when another car drove through a U.S. checkpoint. They said U.S. troops then opened fire on both cars. According to reports, the car in which they were driving was clearly marked 'TV'.

Earlier this year, the IFJ and the Federation of Arab Journalists sent a mission to Iraq calling for international support for a practical programme to build unity, professionalism and a secure environment for Iraqi journalism. The mission coincided with the launch of a series of safety training workshops for Iraqi journalists and foreign reporters working in Baghdad organised by the International News Safety Institute (INSI), the global news safety group specialising in assistance to journalists working in dangerous areas.

“It is extraordinary that these were the first practical efforts to help Iraqi journalists working in dangerous conditions,” said White. “Much more of this needs to be done to help journalists on the spot.”

The IFJ warns that these latest killings raise serious questions as to whether journalists are being targeted and says that in particular the killing of the two Al-Arabiya journalists should be subject to a full and open investigation of the circumstances. “These are another two cases where a full explanation must be given about how coalition troops could open fire on a clearly-marked vehicle,” said White.

The IFJ is concerned over the failure to provide proper and explicit reports on the deaths of 7 other journalists since the war began a year ago and have prompted the Federation to call an international day of mourning on 8 April, the anniversary day US troops opened fire on the Palestine hotel in Baghdad, which was filled with journalists and media staff killing 2 and wounding 3 others.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries