IFJ Baghdad Centre Focus on Safety as Three More Journalists Die in Iraq’s Media Nightmare

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Three Iraqi journalists have been assassinated in “cold-blooded and ruthless executions” on the roadside south of Baghdad reports the safety office of the International Federation of Journalists in Iraq.

The attack took place on Sunday when the journalists were travelling to Kerbala from Baghdad. They were among 13 passengers in a minibus that was stopped by an armed group who picked out the journalists when they showed their press cards. The rest of the passengers were freed, but Najem Abd Khudair, the Kerbala correspondent for the newspaper Al Mada, Ahmad Adam, a freelance writer for Al Mada and trainee journalist, Ali Jassem Al Rumi, working for Al Safeer newspaper in Baghdad were then killed.

“These colleagues were savagely murdered,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “They had their throats cut in cold-blooded and ruthless executions that are a cruel demonstration of the horrors of working in journalism in Iraq today.”

These latest killings bring to 85 the number of journalists and media staff killed in Iraq since the US and British invasion in March 2003. Of this number some 62, almost 80 per cent, are Iraqi. The number also includes 14 deaths at the hands of US troops, which have prompted the IFJ and others to demand independent reports on the circumstances.

The IFJ is also demanding that US and Iraq authorities free eight Iraqi journalists, most working for western media, who were arrested in March allegedly because “they pose a security risk to the Iraqi people and coalition forces.”

“These arrests, without formal charges, are nothing short of intimidation,” said White. “Journalism in Iraq is in the deepest crisis and the authorities should bring forward clear charges or release these journalists immediately. The uncertainty and injustice of arrest and arbitrary detention is intolerable.”

The IFJ opened its safety office in Baghdad last month with the support of Iraqi journalists who have created the Iraqi National Journalism Advisory Panel to improve levels of protection for journalists, to campaign for journalists’ rights and to encourage journalists to work together in the current crisis.

“Iraqi journalists get no training, they have no safety equipment, they have no insurance or social protection,” said White. “The Baghdad centre, which is drafting guidelines on safety precautions for journalists in Iraq, provides much-needed support.”

The centre has produced and issued media and journalists in Iraq with a special safety package -- an Iraqi edition of the safety manual Live News in Arabic, first aid kits, and a CD-Rom guide to security and protection for media staff.

For further information please contact +32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries