April 6, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Growing tribulations of Iraqi journalists

Read in Arabic (بالعربية) Reporters Without Borders condemns the attacks that around 50 men armed with clubs and knives carried out on four Baghdad-based newspapers – Al-Nass, Al-Barlaman, Al-Dustour and Al-Mustaqbal Al-Iraqi ­– on 1 April. The assailants smashed computer equipment and furniture and assaulted employees. Six journalists were hospitalized. It is still not known for sure who was behind the attacks. Various theories have been proposed. Al-Dustour editor Bassam Al-Sheikh said he thought the attackers were members of a radical Shiite militia led by Mahmoud Al-Hassani Al-Sarkhi, who had been criticized in all four newspapers in connection with his suspected ambition of controlling the Shiite holy city of Karbala. Al-Mustaqbal Al-Iraqi editor Ali Al-Darraji told Reporters Without Borders he thought the attacks were carried out with the aim of intimidating and “gagging independent voices.” They are the latest and most serious in a string of cases of harassment and violence against journalists. While the interior ministry condemned this week’s attacks, Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the lack of concrete measures by the authorities to protect media personnel. “We deplore the increase in abuses targeting journalists and the fact that the Iraqi security forces are often involved in cases of reporters being harassed and prevented from doing their work,” Reporters Without Borders said. Many Iraqi journalists are routinely exposed to threats, murder attempts, attacks, difficulties obtaining permission, denial of access, confiscation of equipment and so on. At the same time, political and religious tension has increased, leading the authorities to postpone local elections scheduled for 20 April for at least six months. The security forces are involved in most of the problems that are reported. At the start of March, foreign journalists were banned from visiting Al-Anbar province, where there had been more than two months of demonstrations to demand the release of prisoners held arbitrarily. On 22 March, local and foreign reporters were forced to leave the governorate of Tikrit, where demonstrations to demand the release of prisoners were also being organized. The same thing happened on 25 March in Al-Kut and on 31 March in Basra, where Al-Ahd cameraman Abdallah Al-Askari and Al-Alam cameraman Mohamed Al-Rasid were harassed by an army officer while covering the aftermath of a bombing near a mosque in Al-Zubayr with 25 casualties. Militias are also responsible for abuses affecting journalists. Al-Anbar TV reporter Karar Al-Tamimi was kidnapped by militia members in Karbala on 3 March and was found two days later with multiple fractures and suffering from psychological trauma.