Violence against journalists during Baghdad clashes

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the unacceptable violence against at least ten Iraqi journalists, some of it by members of the security forces, during protests in response to an announcement by populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that he is retiring from politics.

“Journalists are once again on the front line of armed clashes in Baghdad,” RSF's Middle East desk said. “We are concerned that this turmoil could lead to a new cycle of violence targeting journalists, not only by Iraq’s militias but also by the police, who are supposed to protect them.”

Sadr’s supporters responded to his announcement on 29 August by surging into Baghdad’s high security “Green Zone” and entering the Palace of the Republic, one of the seats of government. This led to violent clashes between the pro-Sadr “Peace Brigades” and the Coordination Framework, a rival Shia coalition that supports Iran, which left a toll of at least 20 dead and 500 wounded, including ten journalists sent to cover the clashes.

During these clashes, Radio Al-Ahad was hit by a mortar shell and a rocket was fired at Dijlah TV, causing major damage. RSF was told that two journalists who were at the TV channel at the time, Mustafa Latif and Kamal Waed, were injured by the explosion. It is not known who fired the rocket.

Fallujah TV reporter Saif Ali was badly beaten by members of the security forces using sticks and batons, and was taken to a hospital with leg injuries. He told RSF: “I was covering the protests inside the government palace. Less than two and a half hours later, live rounds were being fired everywhere. They also fired stun grenades. I was hit in the ankle. I have fractures in my leg, a hand injury and an injury to the inner tissue of my right ear.”

Kurdistan 24 reporter Hamyd Mozfr’s hand was injured by fragments from a bullet while his colleague, Amar Abdeljalil, was badly beaten. 

Several journalists were prevented from filming the protests. Al Jazeera reporters Samer Youssef and Mohamad Malla were detained inside the palace for over an hour by security forces, who also detained Al-Rasheed TV journalists Ammar Ghassan and Mohammed Qahtan Naji, giving them a severe beating and confiscating their equipment.

Zoom News reporter Rokan Jaf was detained for half an hour and his equipment was seized, while Associated Press photographer Hadi Mizban was detained, beaten and stripped of his camera. A police officer also threatened an UTV crew consisting of Haidar Al-Badry and Abdelmalek Faysal.

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