Iraq: Two reporters shot dead in Basra

A journalist working for Iraqi broadcaster Dijlah TV and his cameraman were killed by unknown gunmen on Friday January 10 in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate (IJS) in condemning these appalling murders and calls on the authorities to bring the killers to justice.

Iraqis take part in a rally on January 11, 2020, to mourn two reporters (image) shot dead the previous evening in the country's southern city of Basra, where they had been covering months of anti-government protests. Credit: Hussein Faleh / AFP

Armed men attacked Ahmad Abdessamad (37), a correspondent for the local television station al-Dijlah, and his cameraman, Safaa Ghali (26), on Friday evening in Basra where they had covered the anti-government protests.

According to media reports,  Ahmad and Safaa were in their car when a 4x4 vehicle pulled up and its passengers fired a hail of bullets into the car. Ahmad Abdessamad was killed instantly while his cameraman was taken to hospital, where he died shortly afterwards. A video of the attack has since emerged on the website of Dijlah TV, showing Abdessamad slumped down in his chair (warning: disturbing content).

The murders prompted outrage in the city and people poured out onto the streets to mourn the killed journalists, despite risks of deadly violence following the deaths of 460 people killed since the beginning of the anti-government protests in October 2019, media reports added. 

More than 400 journalists have been killed since 2003 in Iraq, making the country one of the most dangerous for media workers. Last December, the IFJ urged the authorities in Iraq Kurdistan to fight impunity for murderers of journalists at an international conference held in Erbil.

The IFJ in October also called on the Iraqi authorities to ensure the safety of journalists covering demonstrations in the country. It warned the current government that its failure to investigate attacks on journalists entails its own liability for these crimes.

These killings occur after one of the safest years for journalists in Iraq, with only one journalist killed in Iraq in 2019.

The IJS said: “This criminal act is part of a series of attacks on journalists and media who are carrying out their mission. We condemn these murders and call on police and security forces in Basra to hunt the criminals and bring them to justice.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We reiterate our call to the authorities in Iraq to start defending media and fight impunity against the crimes done to journalists across the country. Successive Iraqi governments have one of the worst records in fighting impunity in the killing of journalists. These killings cannot go unpunished. The voices of the Iraqi people may not be silenced by those who don’t want the truth to be known.” 

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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