Two Iraqi editors murdered in Baghdad

New York, March 5, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the brutal murder of an Iraqi editor by unmasked gunmen in Baghdad on Sunday. The body of another editor thought missing was identified by his family in a Baghdad morgue on Wednesday.

Around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, several gunmen in two vehicles attempted to abduct Mohan Hussein al-Dhahir, 49, managing editor of the Baghdad daily Al-Mashreq, while he waited outside his home in Baghdad’s Al-Jamia neighborhood for the paper’s car to pick him up for work, according to sources at the paper. After a struggle, the sources said, the gunmen shot al-Dhahir six times in the back and once in the head.

Al-Mashreq is a privately owned, widely read Baghdad newspaper that has published commentary critical of the government, according to local journalists. The paper’s staff has received numerous death threats and demands to stop publishing, local journalists said. Al-Dhahir worked nearly four years for the paper.

In a separate development, the body of Jamal al-Zubaidi, 56, an economics editor for the Baghdad-based dailies As-Saffir and Al-Dustour, was identified by his family on Wednesday in a Baghdad morgue. Al-Zubaidi’s son, Riyah, told CPJ that police found the editor’s body with gunshot wounds to the head on February 24 in Baghdad’s southwestern neighborhood of Al-Aamal.

“We offer our condolences to the families of our colleagues Mohan Hussein al-Dhahir and Jamal al-Zubaidi,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The senseless murder of both editors serves as a reminder of the unprecedented dangers of practicing journalism in Iraq.”

Al-Zubaidi’s identity cards and cell phone were taken by the gunmen. He was last seen leaving As-Saffir’s offices in the central Karada neighborhood around 1 p.m. on February 24, CPJ previously reported.

Al-Zubaidi had worked for As-Saffir and Al-Dustour for the last three years.

Two journalists for As-Saffir were killed by gunmen in September 2005 in Mosul. Another was kidnapped and held for ransom for nearly three week in March 2006.

At least 95 journalists, including al-Dhahir and al-Zubaidi, and 37 media support staffers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, making Iraq the deadliest conflict for the press in recent history. Insurgents are responsible for the bulk of media deaths. More than 80 percent of all media deaths have been Iraqis working for local and international news outlets. Murder is the leading cause of death.