In Iraq, two journalists slain

New York, August 2, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murders of two Iraqi journalists who were killed in separate weekend attacks by masked assailants. Seventy-five journalists and 27 media support workers have been killed in Iraq since the war began on March 20, 2003, making it the deadliest conflict in CPJ’s 25-year history.

Unidentified gunmen intercepted Adel Naji al-Mansouri, 34, a correspondent for the Iranian state-run Arabic language satellite channel Al-Alam, as he was driving in the al-Amariyeh neighborhood of western Baghdad on Saturday night, colleague Abdullah Hamdullah Bardan Ruba’i told CPJ. Al-Mansouri was driving to the station’s offices when he was attacked, Ruba’i said.

The gunmen took al-Mansouri’s mobile phone, satellite phone, press card, and money, Ruba’i said. He said his colleague was rushed to a hospital but died shortly afterward. Ruba’i and CPJ sources said they suspect he was killed because he was a journalist.

Al-Mansouri, a Shiite, received death threats nearly a year ago when he resided with his family in Baghdad, where sectarian violence has intensified, according to Ruba’i. The Associated Press reported that the journalist moved his wife and daughter to the Shiite-dominated city of Karbala following the threats, but chose to stay in Baghdad himself. He had dropped off his visiting wife at her parent’s house in al-Amariyeh around 7 the night of the attack, sources said.

Ruba’i said he, too, has received death threats because he works for Iran’s Al-Alam channel. The latest was April 2006 via e-mail. Al-Mansouri is the first journalist from the Arabic-language Iranian satellite channel to be murdered.

The station, which started regular broadcasting in March 2003, is based in Tehran and run by IRIB, the Iranian state radio and TV service, the BBC reported. It is opposed to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and in hourly news bulletin shows extensive footage of Iraqi civilians lying dead in residential areas or being treated in hospitals, according to the BBC..

CPJ is investigating the details surrounding the killing of Riyad Muhammad Ali, a reporter for the local weekly Talafar al-Yawm, who was shot by unidentified assailants in Mosul’s Wadi Aqab area on Sunday. CPJ is seeking to determine whether the slaying was directly related to Ali’s work.

One local source said he believes Ali was targeted because he was both a Shiite and a journalist but could not provide other details. Sectarian violence in Talafar is intense, and Ali was a well-known reporter working for one of the few major local papers in the town.

Ali is the second journalist for the local weekly to be murdered. Late last year, Ahmed Hussein al-Maliki, an editor for the weekly, was shot by unidentified gunmen in an Internet café in Mosul’s central district, according to several news reports. CPJ is investigating the circumstance behind that murder.

“We mourn the death of our colleagues Adel Naji al-Mansouri and Riyad Muhammad Ali, both senselessly murdered,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “As sectarian violence spirals, journalists of all backgrounds appear to be targeted, adding to the extraordinary danger facing the press in Iraq.”