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Iraqi journalists harassed, assaulted while covering provincial elections in three cities

Iraqi journalists harassed, assaulted while covering provincial elections
An Iraqi soldier stands guard outside a polling centre in Mosul, Iraq, Thursday, January 29, 2009. This weekend's election in Mosul is a showdown for power between Arabs and Kurds, with the outcome likely to influence whether al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgents lose their last major urban foothold in Iraq.Photo: Associated Press (AP)

Journalists in at least three Iraqi cities were harassed on Wednesday as police, soldiers, prisoners, some government employees, and displaced persons kicked off the early voting phase of Iraq's provincial councils elections, according to local and international news reports and journalists who spoke to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

In the southern city of Basra, 15 Iraqi reporters working for local and international news agencies gathered in front of Mina Prison in anticipation of the 7 a.m. opening of a polling station inside the correctional facility. As soon as the doors opened and cameras began filming, prison guards assaulted the reporters and broke equipment, local and international news agencies reported. The guards accused camera operators and photographers of filming and taking pictures of the faces of the inmates, according to news reports.

"The presence of journalists outside polling stations is necessary to report on the voting process," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle ‎East and North Africa programme coordinator. "The Iraqi government must ensure that the army and police allow journalists to operate freely as long as they are not compromising the electoral process."

Harassment and intimidation against reporters were also reported in Fallujah where journalists were prevented from entering polling stations despite having accreditation from the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), according to the Iraqi Journalistic Freedoms Observatory and local journalists who spoke to CPJ.

A journalist working for a US-based newspaper in Fallujah told CPJ that Iraqi soldiers prevented journalists from entering Al-Jumhuriyya School, a polling station. Reporters were allowed to enter the building four hours later, but only after IECI intervened, said the journalist, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

In Hilla, the capital of Babil province, police prevented eight journalists from entering a polling station inside the city's main hospital, according to two local reporters. After waiting for more than four hours, IECI officials allowed only two journalists, one working for the state-run Al-Iraqiya and another for the US-funded Al-Hurra channel into the voting centre out of a larger group, the journalists told CPJ. Only those two journalists had accreditations.

Date posted: January 31, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 354