IFJ Calls for International Action as Militants in Iraq and Nepal Threaten to Kill Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists today called for new international action to protect media staff as militant groups in Nepal and Iraq issued threats to kill journalists.

The IFJ statement came as Iraqi militants threatened to kill French journalist Micah Garen, who has American citizenship and who was kidnapped while working for a US film-maker in Iraq. The satellite channel Al Jazeera television showed footage of him kneeling in front of five masked men holding rifles. Last weekend British journalist James Brandon was subject to the same ordeal but later released after an appeal to the militants by radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

“This grotesque repeat performance of intimidation is a terrible reminder of the risks all journalists face,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. The IFJ has called upon groups that have influence with the militants to do everything they can to secure Mr. Garen’s release.

“The targeting of journalists is an increasingly horrifying feature of regional conflict,” said White. “More must be done to protect media staff and to find these killers. They must be brought to justice. Those who support them must be exposed and isolated by the international community.”

Earlier, on 15 August freelance Iraqi newsman Mahmud Hamid Abbas was killed in Falluja. He was working for the German TV network ZDF. Another journalist, Hossam Ali, a freelance photographer carrying the official press badge, was also killed the same day. A third one, cameraman Issam Al-Shamani, is reported missing since Sunday. The IFJ is calling for an investigation into these cases. British news agency Reuters said one of its photographers, Ali Abu al-Shich, was wounded by gunfire in Najaf on 17 August.

Yesterday, journalists and media workers in Kathmandu took to the streets to protest over the killing of Radio Nepal correspondent Dekerdraraj Thapa who they say is the victim of Maoist rebels in the country. Their protests came as the rebel group, which has blockaded the Nepalese capital, announced their intention to kill ten more journalists.

“The continuing crisis facing journalists and media staff in these areas of conflict is an intolerable threat to democracy,” said White. “It is time for the international community to make it clear that action will be taken to find those responsible and to improve levels of protection for media people.”

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