IFJ Condemns Latest Attacks on Prominent Journalists as Iraqi Media Death Toll Rises to 186

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the latest killings of two prominent Iraqi journalists, bringing the tally for 2007 to 15 and putting the country on track to hit another tragic record for media killings.

“The brutal killings over the weekend of two prominent Iraqi journalists highlight the continued danger that journalists face there,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “The figures are staggering and show that protection of media and freedom of the press have been trampled by the mounting violence of civil strife.”

Well-known journalist Mohan al-Zaher, managing editor of the independent daily newspaper al-Mashreq, was killed near his home in Baghdad on Sunday during a botched kidnapping attempt, according to IFJ affiliate the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate (IJS). His murder followed the discovery on Saturday of the body of Iraqi journalist Jamal al-Zubaidi, the managing editor of Baghdad newspaper al-Safir(The Ambassador), who had disappeared a week earlier.

At least 13 other journalists and media staff have been killed since the beginning of January. If the current trend of violence against media continues at the same rate, the total number of deaths could reach 87 by the end of the year. At least 69 journalists and media workers were killed in Iraq in 2006 and at least 186 have died since the start of the conflict in 2003. The vast majority of those killed have been Iraqi.

In the two most recent killings, the journalists appeared to have been specifically targeted due to their work. Al-Zubaidi, who was apparently killed by a gunshot wound to the head, had been severely wounded in a previous shooting attack.

According to press reports, Al-Zaher, who was shot to death as gunmen tried to kidnap him, had a column in al-Mashreq’s Sunday issue that criticized government spending. The piece, entitled “In the Goal: Democracy the Indian way,” asked Iraqis “if this is the democracy that we dreamt of?” Al-Zaher was also an active member of the IJS.

These latest murders follow a spate of violence against journalists and media staff in January and February.

“The situation keeps getting worse for Iraqi journalists and we fear that there is no place where journalists are safe,” White said. “Journalists are being killed while on assignment or kidnapped from their homes. Even security guards hired to keep them safe at work are being killed, in some cases by military forces who are supposed to be providing protection.”

Click here to read the release in Arabic.

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide