Insurgents kill head of Iraq state television

New York, March 13, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of Amjad Hameed, head of programming for Iraq’s state television channel Al-Iraqiya. Gunmen apparently affiliated to Al-Qaeda killed Hameed and his driver Anwar Turki in an ambush in Baghdad Saturday. Hameed, 45, had run the station since July.

“We deplore the senseless murder of Amjad Hameed and Anwar Turki and offer our condolences to their families,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “As the third anniversary of the Iraq war approaches, this is yet another reminder of why Iraq remains the most dangerous place for journalists.”

Al-Iraqiya, which receives funding from the U.S. government, suspended regular programming and aired verses from the Quran after the attack. The killings were widely condemned, and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate said it would ask the interior minister to allow journalists to carry firearms in self-defense, the Los Angeles Times reported.

At least six journalists and two media support staff have been killed in Iraq this year.

Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday in Internet postings, but those claims could not be independently verified. “Your brothers in the military wing of the Mujahedeen Council assassinated on Saturday Amjad Hameed, the editor of Iraqiya … which always broadcasts lies about jihad (holy war) to satisfy crusader masters,” said a statement posted on a Web site often used by militant groups and attributed to the group, Reuters reported. According to the statement the station was “the mouthpiece of the apostate government.”

CPJ has documented the killing of at least six journalists and five media workers from the station and its affiliates since 2004. Most were killed by insurgents. Al-Iraqiya offices have repeatedly come under mortar attack.

At least 66 journalists and 24 media support workers have been killed in Iraq since March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for the media in recent history. The killings continue two recent trends in Iraq: the vast majority of those killed have been Iraqi citizens; and most cases have been targeted assassinations rather than crossfire.