Newswatch | Newswatch

You are here

Iraq: Wave of media freedom violations since last month’s parliamentary elections

Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has expressed concern over the continuing wave of press freedom violations in Iraq, and reiterated its appeal to the Iraqi parliament to pass a law protecting journalists.

“Many journalists and media have been the target of physical attacks or lawsuits since the March 7 parliamentary elections,” Paris-based RSF said. “The threats come from both the security forces and public figures. The context yet again shows the urgent need for the Iraqi parliament to being examining the draft law on the protection of journalists that has repeatedly been postponed since September 2009.”

In the latest incident, eight Kurdish journalists were physically attacked by police when they went to cover a student demonstration outside the department of education building in Sulaymaniyah (in Iraqi Kurdistan) on April 17. Those assaulted included photographer Safin Ismail of the newspaper Aso, reporter Warya Hussein of satellite TV station Biyam, reporter Kamal Nouri of the TV station Sahar, cameraman Sroucht Sazan and reporter Sahnad Saleh of the TV station Kadhi, and reporter Didin Majid of satellite TV station Sabida. Three cameras were seized and destroyed.

Ahmed Al-Hamadani, the correspondent of the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al-Arabiya, was arrested on April 15 in the Kurdish city of Kirkuk after getting into an argument with a policeman. He was released a few hours later.

Members of the security forces arrested Saad Al-Awsi, the editor of the weekly Al-Shahid, from his home in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Al-Karkh on the morning of April 14, taking him away to an unknown place of detention after carrying out a search and confiscating a computer. His arrest was prompted by an article criticising the compromises that Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki allegedly made to get his job.

Al-Awsi’s parents went to the Al-Karkh directorate of operations the same day seeking information but officials there denied any knowledge of the arrest, which came just over two months after the security forces searched the weekly’s office on February 5 and confiscated computers.

Ahmed Ismail Ali Al-Sa’di, a former reporter for Al-Iraqiya TV who now works in Denmark for Shabakat Al-I’lam Al-Iraqi, said he has threatened by the Iraqi government with reprisals if he returns to Iraq.

Several journalists were roughed up by members of the embassy protection force while accompanying interior minister Jawad Al-Boulani on an inspection of embassy security on April 11 following the April 4 bombing targeting the Iranian embassy. The journalists were barred from entering the embassies and were manhandled despite being part of the delegation. The minister expressed his support for the journalists.

Fadel Al-Khaqani, the editor of the Shabakat Akhbar Al-Nasiryah website in Al-Nasiriyah (in Dhi Qar province), 375 km south of Baghdad, was summoned on April 12 to answer a defamation suit by municipal engineer Kazem Al-Khaqani claiming 100 million Iraqi dinars (63,000 euros) in damages for a February 9 article about a resident who said the municipal council was taking too long to complete the expansion of a green belt around the city. The editor pointed out that the article did not target anyone in particular. The trial is continuing.

Around 10 Dhi Qar journalists staged a strike on April 12 to denounce violations of media freedom in the province. During the strike, the head of the Dhi Qar Union of Journalists reminded parliament of the need to begin debating the draft law on the protection of journalists.

RSF has learnt that the head of public affairs in the Baghdad municipal government, Saber Al-Isawi, is suing the newspaper Al-Bayyna Al-Jadidah for 200 million Iraqi dinars (126,000 euros) over an allegedly libelous article. An ironical column by the political editor in the newspaper on April 18 said, “Those in charge of public affairs in the City of Baghdad presumably need money to fund sidewalk resurfacing projects in Al-Tanak [west of Mosul], so they had the newspaper prosecuted to cover the budget deficit.”

RSF noted the efforts being made by the Iraqi authorities to identify those responsible for the car-bomb that badly injured Omar Ibrahim Al-Jabouri, the satellite TV station Al-Rasheed’s head of public relations. The police arrested two suspects on April 16 and searched their home in Doura, south of Baghdad. No statement has been released about the outcome of their interrogation.

The bomb, attached to the underside of Al-Jabouri’s car, exploded as he set off for work from his home in Doura on the morning of April 13. Al-Jabouri lost both of his legs and two other people were seriously injured.

According to a survey by the Iraqi press freedom centre Aklam Horra, a quarter of the country’s journalists have left the country because of the US occupation and the Iraqi government’s policies. Most of them emigrated to Jordan, Syria or Egypt. Those who stayed are constantly exposed to threats, the survey added.

Date posted: April 21, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 138