Riyad Assariyeh, a 35-year-old journalist working for state-run Al Iraqiya TV, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was leaving his home in Baghdad this morning. This clearly targeted murder brings to 15 the number of Al Iraqiya journalists who have been killed since Saddam Hussein’s removal.
Reporters Without Borders calls for a proper investigation capable of identifying and arresting both the perpetrators and instigators of this murder and bringing them to justice. It would be deplorable it this killing were to go unpunished, which unfortunately has been the case in 99 per cent of the 230 murders of journalists and media workers since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Two weeks after the U.S. Army’s last combat brigade withdrew from Iraq, Reporters Without Borders surveyed the country’s seven years of occupation by the coalition forces and their impact on press freedom. The aim of this report is to pay homage to all of the media professionals who gave their lives in order to keep the public informed, despite the risks they were taking.
Although the U.S. intervention in Iraq put an end to Saddam Hussein’s regime and paved the way for a major expansion of the Iraqi media, the human toll of the war, and the years of political and ethnic violence which followed, were nothing short of disastrous – too many people died.
The second U.S. war with Iraq was the most lethal for journalists since World War II. Reporters Without Borders tallied 230 cases of journalists and media staff killed in the country since the conflict broke out on 20 March 2003. That is more than those killed during 20 years of the Vietnam War or the civil war in Algeria.
In this report intitled “The Iraq War: A Heavy Death Toll for the Media,” Reporters Without Borders focuses on those journalists who were killed during the conflict simply because they wanted to do their jobs. Who were they? Which media outlets did they work for? Under what circumstances were they killed? Were they deliberately attacked? This is the third time that Reporters Without Borders has conducted such a study. The last one was released on 20 March 2006, on the occasion of the third anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq.
In this study, Reporters Without Borders also re-examines the issue of journalist abductions during the war: Iraq, with its more than 93 abducted media professionals, was for several years the biggest market for hostages in the world.
Suspected of collaborating with insurgent groups, Iraqi journalists were also frequently arrested during the war, either by the newly established Iraki administration, or by the U.S. Army. Some 30 journalists were arrested by the U.S. Army between March 2003 and August 2010, mainly in 2008. By early January 2006, Camp Bucca, the American detention centre in southern Iraq between the cities of Basra and Uum Qasr, had become the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East.
To obtain a better grasp of the factors which contributed to this death toll, Reporters Without Borders produced several graphs showing diverse trends with regard to attacks on the media in Iraq since 2003.