The targeting and killing of an Iraqi television journalist and his son is the latest act of a “senseless and merciless” campaign against democracy and press freedom in Iraq that is certain to fail, said the International Federation of Journalists today.
“Killing journalists will not stifle the democratic movement in Iraq,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It is the cowardly alternative to facing up to the truth, it causes needless suffering and prolongs the pain of the victims of this conflict on all sides.”
The IFJ was responding after gunmen in Basra shot dead Iraqi journalist Abdul Hussein Al-Basri who was working for US-backed TV channel Al-Hurriya. The reporter and his son were gunned down as they left their home.
The IFJ says that the latest killing – which brings to 72 the number of journalists and media staff killed in Iraq since the conflict began almost two years ago – will reinforce efforts to improve safety and security of all journalists working in the country. This weekend the IFJ is holding a meeting of journalists’ leaders from Iraq to provide a safety briefing and to develop solidarity actions with all journalists in the country.
“The killing of Al-Basri is more evidence of how the majority of victims in Iraq are Iraqis themselves, particularly those striving to build a new democratic society,” said White. “Journalists around the world are in solidarity with them.”
Al- Basri was also the editor of a local newspaper and a member of the political office of the Islamic Dawa party. The network Al-Hurriya was launched by the United States in February last year to compete with Arabic-language news channels such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.
“Although some try to claim that this is a propaganda network, it is one of many voices trying to tell the Iraqi story in a professional way. It has every right to exist and its journalists should not be victimised,” said White. “All targeting of journalists is unacceptable and should be condemned by religious and political leaders on all sides.”
Meanwhile the IFJ is supporting efforts by its affiliates in France and Italy to secure the release of Florence Aubenas, a correspondent for French newspaper Liberation, who disappeared in Baghdad with her Iraqi translator, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, over a month ago and Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena who was snatched from a street in the Iraqi capital last week.
Appeals have been sent by French and Italian unions affiliated to the IFJ to a range of Iraqi groups calling for more information and pressure to get their early release. “Whether this is the work of mercenary thugs or political extremists hardly matters,” said White. “What is important is that they are all released and quickly.”
More than 70 journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion nearly two years ago. 47 of these were local Iraqis.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries