Media Terror in Iraq Intensifies as Six Journalists Die in Targeted Killings

The International Federation of Journalists has called for urgent international action as a series of new targeted killings in Iraq have increased the pressure on media. The killing of three news people over the past three days has created an “unprecedented atmosphere of terror and intimidation” for journalists throughout the country, says the IFJ.

The IFJ says that the latest murders bring to around 120 the number of journalists and media staff killed in the country since the invasion by United States and British forces in 2003.

Three journalists were killed on Sunday, two of them kidnapped and then brutally murdered south of Baghdad, and a third assassinated by a gunman in Basra. The IFJ is investigating the deaths of three other journalists.

“These deaths add fresh brutality to the atmosphere of terror and intimidation that has overtaken Iraqi media,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Despite the claims of the Iraqi authorities that they would act to defend journalists, the reality is one of unbearable suffering for media people that continues to intensify.”

The two Baghdad victims Laith Mashaan, a Nahrein Television correspondent, and Muazaz Ahmed, a technician at the station, were stopped on their way home in the south of Baghdad by people dressed as policemen who stopped them and asked for their papers. They were then taken away. After a period of co-ordinated media appeals over their safety and calls to the interior ministry, the bodies of the two men were found dead yesterday.

In Basra gunmen shot dead photographer Abed Shaker al Delaimi. He was an active member of Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate, and he worked at al Jumhureyya and al Qadeseyya newspapers and was an occasional freelance for Reuters. The latest figures shows that the number of journalists who have been killed in the last three days have risen to 6.

According to local sources, a printshop worker, Isamil Mohammed Khalaf was killed in a car bomb attack in Baghdad on 7 May. The bomb exploded early in the morning targeting a police patrol and blew up near the offices of the state-run Al-Sabah newspaper.

Two days earlier, Iraqi police found the body of Saad Shammari, a TV journalist who hosted a show on the Al-Iraqiyah channel. Shammari’s body was wrapped in a blanket and dumped on the side of a road in Baghdad. The journalist was apparently strangled. A third journalist, Saud M’Zahim Al-Hedaithi, working for Baghdadiyah TV, was also killed on the same day. The IFJ is continuing investigations into these three cases.

The IFJ says that the intimidation of journalists in Iraq is now a routine and dangerous phenomenon that makes the exercise of journalism almost impossible. “The Iraq story cannot be told in truth when a climate of violence, threats and suspicion surrounds the work of media. Urgent action needs to be taken by the authorities to ease the situation, ” said White.

The IFJ is in contact with journalists’ groups in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Baghdad-based Syndicate of Journalists to try to assist them in confronting the crisis.

For further information contact the IFJ: +32 2 235 2207

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