On 4th anniversary of Iraq conflict, press marks deadliest toll

New York, March 15, 2007—Four years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains the deadliest country in the world for the press as local journalists continue to suffer disproportionately from the violence, research by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows.

A total of 97 journalists and 37 media support staffers have been killed in the line of duty since the war began on March 20, 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for the media in CPJ’s 25-year history. The Algerian conflict of the 1990s, in which 58 journalists were killed, is second.

The media death toll in Iraq has steadily climbed since 2003, when 14 journalists—most of them reporters working for the international press—were killed. In 2004, 24 journalists were killed, followed by 23 deaths in 2005, and 32 deaths in 2006. The 32 deaths in 2006 was the largest annual death toll in a single country ever recorded by CPJ.

The bulk of media deaths over the last four years have involved Iraqi journalists working for the country’s burgeoning local press and as news gatherers for international news organizations. More than 80 percent of all media deaths in Iraq since 2003 have been Iraqis. Each of the four journalists killed so far in 2007 were Iraqis, as were all but two of the journalists and media workers killed in 2006.

“These sobering statistics are a reminder of the enormous dangers our colleagues face in trying to report one of the biggest stories of our time,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Other findings from CPJ’s research:
• Murder is the leading cause of journalist deaths in Iraq, now by a ratio of almost 2-1, with insurgent and other armed groups targeting journalists for political, sectarian, and Western affiliations. Seventy percent of all journalists and support workers killed in Iraq were targeted for assassination.

• Dozens of Iraqi journalists have been detained by the U.S. military; most were held for short periods, but in at least eight cases documented by CPJ the journalists were held for many weeks or months without charge or conviction. One of those Iraqi journalists, Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, is still detained and has been held for nearly a year without charge.

• Fourteen journalists and two media workers have been killed by U.S. forces’ fire in Iraq. CPJ has not found evidence to conclude that U.S. troops targeted journalists in these cases. But CPJ has found that the U.S. military failed to fully investigate or properly account for these deaths. While the cases are classified as crossfire, CPJ continues to investigate.

• Forty-five journalists have been kidnapped since the war began. European journalists have been targeted most frequently, with 18 having been seized. Iraqi journalists have increasingly become targets for kidnappings and account for nearly a third of all abductions. Marwan Ghazal and Reem Zaeed, abducted on February 1, 2006, and Bilal Taleb Abdelrahman al-Obeidi, abducted on August 14, 2006, remain missing.

• Baghdad province has been the most dangerous location for the press, with 56 journalists and 27 media workers killed and another 28 journalists kidnapped. Nineveh province, which includes Mosul, has seen 15 journalists and four support workers killed, and five journalists kidnapped.

• The government-run Iraq Media Network, which includes national broadcaster Al-Iraqiya, has suffered the greatest losses, with 13 of its journalists and 10 of its support workers killed, many of them murdered. The Dubai-based satellite news channel Al-Arabiya and the Iraqi satellite channel Al-Shaabiya have each had 11 media personnel killed.
CPJ’s Web site includes full statistics on: Journalists killed in Iraq  |  Media support workers killed in Iraq  |  Journalists abducted in Iraq