Iraqi news presenter, driver abducted in Baghdad

New York, March 19, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the abduction of an Iraqi news presenter and his driver by armed men in Baghdad on Saturday.

Around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, four masked gunmen seized Karim Manhal, a news presenter and editor for the privately owned Radio Dijla, and the station’s driver, Thamir Sabri, as they were heading to work in Baghdad’s Al-Jamia neighborhood, station Director Karim Yousef told CPJ. A passenger and colleague, Rana al-Samaraee, was allowed to go free, he said. The abduction took place near the station’s offices.

“We are very concerned about the safety of our colleagues Karim Manhal and Thamir Sabri and call on their abductors to free them at once,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Journalists in Iraq continue to be targeted for abduction and murder at an alarming rate, typically with impunity.”

Both Manhal and Sabri are in their late 40s. Manhal has been working for Radio Dijla for nearly three years.

Radio Dijla staff has been targeted before. In December 2006, unidentified gunmen killed Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, 36, a news editor for Radio Dijla, shortly after he left his home in Baghdad’s al-Washash neighborhood. On September 13, 2006, unidentified gunmen kidnapped Muhammad Abdul Rahman, 55, a former broadcaster for the station. CPJ is investigating the circumstances behind his abduction.

According to CPJ research, at least 46 journalists, including Manhal, have been abducted since 2004. Marwan Ghazal and Reem Zaeed, abducted on February 1, 2006, and Bilal Taleb Abdelrahman al-Obeidi, abducted on August 14, 2006, remain missing.