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Iraq drift to civil war is a catastrophe for journalism, says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has warned that the escalating violence in Iraq, which has seen a number of journalists killed in recent days, is forcing all media – both local and international – into hiding, with increasing lawlessness and violence not being properly covered.

EASY PREYS: Former French hostage in Iraq Florence Aubenas (C) chats with a colleagues from Liberation, a French daily. Murders, censorship, and growing imprisonment made 2005 an "alarming year" in which 47 journalists were killed. (AFP/File/Eric Feferberg)

"We are witnessing a catastrophe for journalism as media organisations are forced to pull their people off the streets," Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, said Thursday. "It is impossible to have independent coverage when media staff are being gunned down in this brutal conflict."

"The fact is that the Iraq story is becoming impossible to cover," said White. "Foreign correspondents are forced to take cover in hotel bunkers or secure accommodation while local staff, mostly Iraqis, are trying to provide film coverage or get on the spot information in an increasingly violent atmosphere." The latest killings indicate that any form of reporting is now "well-nigh impossible." As a result, says IFJ, there is intimidation and kidnapping taking place which is not being reported at all.

"We are horrified by this appalling act," Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. "We will never stop repeating that journalists are neutral and vital observers. They are neither combatants nor targets to be shot down. Their work must be protected and respected, whatever their nationality and regardless of which media they work for."

"We're utterly shocked and dismayed by this senseless crime," said Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Executive Director Ann Cooper. "These three journalists were targeted and murdered in cold blood because they were doing their jobs." She said, "Our thoughts and sympathies go out to families and colleagues. We hope those responsible for these murders and those of other journalists will eventually be brought to justice."

"One of the saddest thing is these terrible statistics are far from reflecting what is really happening in the country," said Hayet Zeghiche, IFJ Project Officer. "The kidnapping or murder of low profile Iraqi journalists never makes the headlines of international news."

MURDERED: The body of Allan Enwiyah, the Iraqi translator working for an American journalist Jill Carroll being recovered from the roadside, Saturday, January 7, in Baghdad. Gunmen kidnapped Carroll, 28, working for the Christian Science Monitor and killed Enwiyah in western Baghdad. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

According to IFJ, 109 journalists and media staff have been killed in the country since the 2003 invasion. CPJ has put the toll at 64 journalists and 23 media workers. RSF, however, said 82 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the start of the war in Iraq. Seven of them have died since January 1, 2006, making this start of the year the most deadly in three years. Atwar Bahjat is the 7th woman journalist to be killed since the war in Iraq began.

According to RSF, thirtyeight journalists and media assistants have been kidnapped since the March 2003 start of the war in Iraq. Five of them were killed by their kidnappers (four Iraqis and the Italian Enzo Baldoni). The others have been released safe and well. Twenty-three of the kidnappings took place in Baghdad or its suburbs. Local TV al-Iraqiya is the Iraqi media that has been worst hit during the war with ten journalists and media assistants murdered.

Date posted: February 23, 2006 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 9