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IFJ backs media reform as journalists are targeted in Middle East uprising

Conflict reporting: This undated video image provided by Israel's Channel 10 shows Israeli journalist Moav Vardi broadcasting from Cairo during the January and February demonstrations.

The International Federation (IFJ) has called for media reforms and respect of press freedom as journalists have come under fire over coverage of anti-governments protests sweeping through the Arab world and the Middle East.

The call follows reports of bans on free movement of journalists and new attacks on media in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Iraq Kurdistan. The authorities have imposed a media crackdown and are curtailing internet access to try to limit the spread of information about the current unrest. IFJ warned that the increasingly belligerent anti-media rhetoric of the region's embattled leaders is likely to further endanger the safety of journalists.

"Journalists are in the firing line as repressive regimes turn to desperate measures to try to save themselves," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "We are backing journalists who are fighting for their rights and we condemn the inflammatory attacks of unscrupulous politicians which can expose our colleagues to mob violence."

According to media reports some foreign journalists have been refused entry to Bahrain and Libya while their colleagues inside these countries have come under targeted attack. In Bahrain last week, journalist Michael Slackman and cameraman Sean Patrick Farreall were shot at by police in a helicopter as they filmed protests in Pearl Square.

The situation is believed to be worse in Libya. According to the French newspaper Le Monde the authorities have accused foreign journalists who managed to enter the country of having links with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. President Muammar Gaddafi fuelled the hostility when he used insulting language in a brief television appearance on Monday, labelling journalists who reported on his alleged flight into exile as ‘dogs'.

Meanwhile, there are fears for the safety of a leading Libyan and Aljazeera correspondent in Libya, Atef al-Atrash, who has been missing since February 17 following his report on the revolt in Bengazi, the country's second largest city, said the Qatar-based cable news channel which says its signal in the country has been jammed. There are also reports of protesters attacking government media.

IFJ has welcomed the decision of Yemeni authorities ordering security forces to protect protesters and is asking the government to extend the protection to journalists, many of whom have been victims of violence since the start of the anti-government demonstrations. "Everyone must be protected and particularly journalists who are reporting from the frontline of these events," added White. "It is time to end the intimidation campaign against Yemeni journalists."

Elsewhere in the region, IFJ was concerned over an attack on Naliya Radio Television (NRT), in Iraq, an independent television network operating in the country's autonomous region of Kurdistan. An angry crowd besieged the station on Sunday over reporting on demonstrations in Sulymaniya, according to press reports.

"Everywhere we look, we see journalists in the eye of the storm across the region," added White. "They need support, they need protection and they need to be able to work in a reformed media environment which respects press freedom and their rights. It's time for change on all fronts, but particularly in media."

Date posted: February 27, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 110