Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns today’s murder of two Iraqi journalists employed by Al-Sharqiya, a privately-owned satellite TV channel, in Diyala, a province northeast of Baghdad.
Unidentified gunmen shot reporter Saif Talal and cameraman Hassan Al-Anbaki after stopping their car near Muqdadiyah, a city about 30 km outside the provincial capital. They were on their way back from a reporting trip to Muqdadiyah, where they had been accompanied by a senior security official. Talal and Anbaki had gone there to investigate a series of fires in mosques and homes the previous day following an attack on a café. “We deplore the murder of these two Iraqi journalists,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East bureau. “This shocking double murder must not go unpunished. Iraq is a minefield for journalists. We urge the authorities to conduct an independent investigation in order to solve this crime and bring those responsible to justice. And we offer our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families.” Ali Wajih, who is Al-Sharqiya’s news director and heads its London bureau, told RSF this was the second time Talal had been directly targeted by gunmen. This first was in 2013. “It is now clear that the government is unable to guarantee the safety of independent journalists in Iraq, including those working for Al-Sharqiya, who are persecuted by Islamic State and by other armed groups that are protected by the authorities and certain influential sectors within the political class,” Wajih said. “Al-Sharqiya appeals to the United Nations, human rights organizations and the ambassadors of foreign countries with an interest in Iraqi affairs to assume their legal and moral responsibilities.” Journalists are often targeted in connection with their work in Iraq, where the security climate is very unstable. Al-Sharqiya, which no longer has any bureau in Iraq since 2007, has lost more than ten journalists in connection with their work since the station’s launch in 2003. Iraq is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.