Reporters Without Borders is very disturbed to learn of attempts on the lives of two journalists in the past week – Muayad Al-Lami, the head of the Iraqi Union of Journalists, on 21 March in Baghdad, and Maytham Al-Ahmed, a radio station manager and newspaper editor, on 17 March in the southern city of Basra.
“The Iraqi authorities must take all necessary measures to put a stop to the violence and to ensure that both attacks are properly investigated,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Parliament’s delay in adopting a law protecting journalists is prolonging the situation of impunity and seems to be the main reason why attacks on the press are continuing.”
Gunmen opened fire on Al-Lami’s car as he was travelling through Baghdad’s Qadisiya district at about 9:30 p.m. on 21 March, seriously wounding his driver but failing to hit Al-Lami, who sustained no injuries. Al-Lami was previously the target of a murder attempt in September 2008, when a dynamite charge was set off outside the building that houses the union.
In Basra, two men on a motorcycle – one in a policeman’s uniform and one in civilian dress – threw a grenade into the garden of Al-Ahmed’s home on 17 March, seriously injuring his brother’s daughter but no one else. The target was clearly Al-Ahmed himself, who is the manager of radio Sindibad and editor of the independent weekly Al-Amani.
Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that the Basra press is currently refusing to cover the activities of the US and British military forces in protest against the way soldiers manhandled journalists during a news conference at which work permits were supposed to have been issued. A number of journalists were detained for several hours after the incident. A US military spokesman has sent a letter of apology to the Basra media.