IFJ Condemns Assassination of Union Chief as Iraq Media Death Toll Reaches 100

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the brutal murder of Mohammad Harun Hassan, an editor and the Executive Secretary of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, who was gunned down by unknown attackers in Baghdad city centre. This brings to 100 the number of journalists and media staff killed in Iraq since the US invasion in March 2003.

Harun Hassan was also the editor-in-chief of the highly regarded Nabdh Al Shabeb Newspaper. He was known for being a well-respected senior journalist and an influential trade union activist who held a top position within the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate. He was on his way to meet the editor in chief of the Baghdad paper Al Qarar in the early afternoon when he was shot four times while driving near the Al Nahda quarter.

IFJ General Secretary Aidan White condemned the attack. “This was a cowardly attack which highlights a vicious circle of violence in which media people are prominent among the victims. It is urgent that we do what we can to minimise the risks journalists face.”

“Harun Hassan was our Chief Executive Officer, looking after the well being of our colleagues in the country”, said Moaid Al Lamy, IJS Board Member, “He was very critical of the political parties and some editors but he was also admired for his journalistic abilities.

“He shared heavy responsibilities within the syndicate and was very influential. We believe this is a despicable attempt to weaken the syndicate and to try to kill off hopes for strong and independent professional journalism in Iraq.”

The assassination comes at a critical moment for the IJS, which only recently reintegrated the Federation of Arab Journalists after holding elections last July. “The IJS is the only viable hope for Iraqi journalist seeking protection and better working conditions in this era of chaos,” added Al Lamy. “We demand that the Iraqi authorities open an immediate investigation into this atrocious crime.”

The killing coincided with the kidnapping of UK Guardian reporter, Rory Carroll, who disappeared in Sadr City yesterday.

The IFJ has developed an extensive safety programme for Iraqi journalists to be implemented as a matter of urgency and has conducted over ten safety training sessions for journalists in all parts of Iraq over the past year.

“We have also designed a web-site in Arabic with information on safety issues as well as an Iraq-specific safety manual, in the hope that would really make the difference for our Iraqi colleagues in need”, added White, “But our main objective is to press the authorities to put an end to the brutal attacks targeting our colleagues.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries