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January 11, 2020 - Updated on January 31, 2020

Two Iraqi journalists shot dead after covering protests in Basra

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the increasingly deadly environment for local reporters covering the political situation in Iraq, where two more journalists were shot dead after covering anti-government protests in the southeastern city of Basra on 10 January.

Ahmad Abdelsamad, a reporter for the Iraqi TV channel Dijlah TV, and his cameraman, Safaa Ghali, were shot in their car by unidentified gunmen. Abdelsamad was killed instantly by a shot to the head while Ghali died of his injuries after being taken to hospital.

 

They had just covered Basra’s response to calls on social networks for another day of anti-government protests throughout the country on 10 January. In all, a total of five journalists have been murdered in Iraq since the start of a wave of anti-government protests on 1 October. All were killed by unidentified gunmen.

 

“Covering protests in Iraq and, in particular, drawing attention to the methods that the security forces use to suppress them now means putting your life in danger,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Iraqi journalists keep on being killed and their murders go unpunished because the authorities do not conduct any serious investigations.”

 

A few hours before being murdered, Abdelsamad posted a video in which he criticized the “random arrests” that the army and security forces were carrying out in Basra in connection with the protests.

 

Three journalists – Al-Ghadeer TV reporter Fuad Al-Halfi, Reuters cameraman Mohamad Al-Fartusi and Al-Sharqiyah photographer Ahmad Raed – were arrested during the protests in Basra on 10 January and were released an hour or so later. The fate of a fourth journalist who was also arrested, photographer Mamoun Mohamad, is not known.

 

The Basra police also smashed Radio Al-Mirbad reporter Mustafa Shaheen’s camera and threatened to arrest him if he continued to cover the protests.

 

Iraq is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.