The International Federation of Journalists today condemned an escalation of the violence against media in Iraq following the killing of two media staff and the attempted kidnapping of three journalists in Baghdad. The IFJ also described the refusal by US and Iraqi authorities to protect targeted journalists as “unconscionable and shocking neglect.”
On 29 May, bodyguard, Mahmoud Ismael Daood and his driver, Samia Abdeljabar, were found dead after they were kidnapped a day earlier. The men worked for two journalists, Ismael Zayer, editor-in-chief of the Baghdad independent Arabic-language al-Sabah al-Jedid newspaper, and his wife Anneke van Ammelroy, who writes for the Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer. Their abduction took place after a failed attempt to kidnap Zayer and his wife.
In another incident yesterday, Alaa Majid, a reporter for al-Sabah al-Jedid narrowly escaped being kidnapped after six cars including one police car were blocked access to her house by neighbours.
The controversial origins of the paper are thought to be behind the recent attacks. Ismail Zayer until March this year was Editor in Chief of Al-Sabah newspaper, which was funded by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and was sharply criticised for being a mouthpiece of the US-led coalition. He complained over editorial interference in the paper by the US administration and finally resigned to set up Al-Sabah Al-Jadid, which was launched on May 3.
“The attacks on this paper and its staff are shocking evidence of the chaos and crisis that is overwhelming the media scene in Iraq,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Even worse it appears that by refusing to provide basic protection when requested, Iraqi and US security police are guilty of shocking neglect of their basic obligation to protect the lives of those directly under threat.”
Zayer said the incident that led to the killing of his driver and bodyguard was an assassination attempt. He initially blamed "elements from Saddam Hussein's old regime" but acknowledged that it could have been "people who resented my resignation from al-Sabah to found a new paper". His desperate situation and that of his wife have been taken up by the IFJ affiliate in the Netherlands where they both have citizenship.
At least 47 journalists and media staff have now been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March last year. The IFJ is continuing to press the US for independent investigations of 12 deaths in which media staff died at the hands of US troops. See Justice Denied on the Road to Baghdad
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries