Amanj Babany, a presenter for the Kurdish TV channel NRT, his wife, Lana Muhammad (herself a Kurdsat journalist), and their young son were all killed when gunmen opened fire on the car and then fled, witnesses reportedly said
But a few hours after they died, the Sulaymaniyah police reported their deaths as a suicide following an argument between Babany and his wife.
The police version is contradicted by the eyewitness accounts gathered by an NRT reporter. Several other journalists, politicians and commentators also disputed the police version, sharing a video on social networks showing the car with bullet impacts. Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani has promised to conduct a "personal" investigation.
“The Kurdistan Region’s government must find the time to conduct a thorough investigation to establish the real circumstances of what may have been a triple murder,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “If it proves to have been murder, it shows that media personnel are still in danger in Iraqi Kurdistan, even in a place that is supposed to be ‘relatively safe’ such as Sulaymaniyah, and that the practice of killing journalists in public hasn’t ended.”
Babany hosted a programme called “Without Borders” that tackled such sensitive subjects as marriages with minors, violence against women and other societal issues that are controversial in Kurdistan.
If confirmed, yesterday’s murders would not be isolated. Roj News journalist Wedat Hussein was found dead, bearing the marks of torture, shortly after been abducted in Dohuk in August 2016. Freelancer Sardasht Osman was found dead in Mosul two days after being abducted in Erbil in May 2010. Moreover, Lvin Magazine reporter Soran Mama Hama was gunned down outside his home in Kirkuk in July 2008 and founder of Rayal Magazine Kawa Germyani was gunned down in similar circumstances in Kalar in December 2013. No one has been convicted of any of these murders.
Iraq is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.