Killing of Journalists and Media Staff in 2004 at ‘Unprecedented Levels of Brutality’ Says IFJ as Total Nears 100

The targeted bomb attack on the Baghdad office of Arab television channel Al-Arabiya at the weekend, in which a number of employees were killed, and the killing yesterday of Reuters cameraman Dhia Najim have confirmed Iraq as the world's most dangerous country for journalists and brings the death toll of journalists and media staff this year to almost 100, says the International Federation of Journalists.

“Journalists and media staff are victims of unprecedented levels of brutality,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary today. “We need more action to reduce risks and we need clear answers to hard questions about why our colleagues are being killed.”

White was raising concerns over the incident in which Najim was killed, apparently at the hands of a US soldier. “The news business is the target of terrorist manipulation and violence on a scale not seen for decades, but we are also seeing casualties that could have been avoided, we need to know why they are not,” he said.

The latest killings bring the total number of journalists and media staff killed this year to 98 and the number killed in Iraq since the invasion in March last year to 62.

The bloodshed of the last few days began last Thursday when Liqaa Abdul-Razzaq a journalist working for Al-Iraqiya television was shot dead along with her interpreter when the taxi she was travelling in was fired upon. Observers said this was a targeted shooting designed to intimidate the Iraqi media.

On Saturday bombers struck at the Al-Arabiya killing seven people including five employees and seven journalists were injured. A group calling itself the Jihadist Martyrs Brigades said it was behind the bombing.

Al-Arabiya, which is largely Saudi-owned, has often been attacked and threatened by militants for being pro-Western, but since the invasion last year its staff have come under fire from all sides. Three of its journalists have died in incidents involving US troops.

The killing of Dhia Najim, who was hit by a single bullet, came after he had been filming clashes between military and insurgents, but according to witnesses the exchanges had ended. There was no immediate explanation was available as to why he was shot although US officials said he was caught in crossfire. However, colleagues and family say a US sniper shot him.

The IFJ says this is the latest in a list of more than a dozen cases of unexplained killings of journalists and media staff by coalition forces since the invasion of Iraq. “Once again we are asking why and how our colleague was killed,” said White. “We need to be certain that journalists are not the victims of reckless behaviour or poor soldiering that can and should be avoided.”

The IFJ plans to raise the crisis at the annual meeting of the International News Safety Institute, an industry coalition fighting for safe journalism, which will be held later this month.

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