The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the continued targeting and assassination of journalists and media staff in Iraq following the abduction and assassination of a local reporter in the southern city of Basra.
Earlier today, Fakher Haider, who had worked for over two years for the New York Times was found with his hands bound and a single bullet wound to the head southwest of Basra. Four masked men arrived in a Toyota vehicle at Haider’s family home in an apartment complex in central Basra after midnight on Sunday claiming to be from the intelligence services and wanting to interrogate him.
“It is now clear that the threat to journalists exists throughout Iraq and not just in the Sunni triangle or the hotspots of Baghdad,” said Robert Shaw, IFJ Human Rights and Information Officer. “The wave of terror against independent reporting is now at its most intense”.
The IFJ is extremely concerned over the fact that Haider is the second journalist to be kidnapped and killed in Basra in the past two months.
Steven Vincent, an American freelance reporter who was writing a book about the city and who had written an opinion piece for the New York Times criticizing the Basra security forces, was kidnapped and found shot dead in August. His female translator was abducted with him and also shot several times but survived and is recovering in hospital.
According to local sources, both killings were connected to investigations that they had been undertaking concerning local security forces being under increasing control of militias loyal to two competing Shi'ite political groups.
“It has been impossible for some time for foreign media to work freely in Iraq and now it has become even more dangerous for Iraqi journalists working for international media,” said Shaw.
Haider is the 96th journalist to be killed in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003 and the 25th to be killed this year in this dangerous and politicized country.
In August this year, the IFJ led a meeting of a group of more than 40 media professionals from journalists’ groups across the country, which adopted a Charter for Social and Professional Rights and put in place a series of proposals to strengthen journalistic independence. “In order to better defend themselves Iraqi journalists must be organized and stick together to press their demands for democratic, professional and social rights,” said Shaw.
The IFJ is now pressing for a clear statement from the UN Security Council to highlight globally the threats facing journalists and media staff working in conflict zones.
“With at least 68 journalists and media staff killed across the globe this year, the death toll is at such levels that the international community must now be seen to be paying attention to this deepening crisis,” said Shaw.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries around the world