IFJ Demands Release of Iraqi Woman Reporter Held for a Month without Charge

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the detention of an Iraqi woman journalist who has been held without charges for nearly a month and called for her immediate release.

Kelshan Al Bayati, an Iraqi correspondent for the London-based, Arabic-language daily Al Hayet, has been held in a women’s prison in Tikrit since September 18.

She was writing a story on militant groups in the area where she lives in Tikrit. Before her detention she met with some of the militants for the story. Al Bayati was seized by Iraqi security forces when she went to their headquarters on September 18 to retrieve a personal computer confiscated during a raid on her home, her family said.

Earlier, she had already been detained for two days by Iraqi authorities and released on September 14. The IFJ accused the Iraqis of playing a form of “cat and mouse” intimidation with her.

“We are deeply concerned by Kelshan’s detention,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “This form of intimidation is intolerable. Twice arrested and detained without charge, she is the victim of unacceptable pressure from the Iraqi authorities that is dangerous for press freedom and designed to silence independent media.”

The IFJ is calling on the Iraqi government to release Kelshan immediately or begin legal proceedings against her if they have evidence that she has committed a crime. She is backed by the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate (IJS), which has also condemned her treatment.

The IFJ intervention follows a recent appeal to the United States authorities to end what it claims is a policy of intimidation of media in Iraq and to review the cases of two journalists being held for alleged security reasons in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. These concern Sami al-Haj, an Al-Jazeera cameraman, who has been detained for five years without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence in Guantanamo and Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press photographer, who has been held for more than five months by US forces in Iraq.

The IFJ says that the lack of acceptable legal process in all these cases raises serious concerns about attempts to frustrate media in attempts to cover the conflict.

For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ has over 500,000 members in more than 100 countries worldwide