Deputy director of Iraqi TV channel killed in truck bomb attack

New York, April 5, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s suicide truck bomb attack on the Iraqi satellite channel Baghdad TV that killed the station’s deputy director, injured 12, and caused severe structural damage to the building in Baghdad’s Jamia district.

A suicide attacker driving a garbage truck packed with explosives blasted near the main entrance of Baghdad TV’s offices, killing Deputy Director Thaer Ahmad Jaber and injuring 12 employees, four of whom are in critical condition, according to a statement by the Iraqi Islamic Party and CPJ sources. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi press freedom organization, reported that the attackers fired at the station’s guards, clearing the way for the truck. The front of the building, which houses the Iraqi Islamic Party-owned Baghdad TV and Radio Dar al-Salam, was destroyed along with several station and employee cars, according to news reports. The station’s main transmission equipment was damaged briefly interrupting its broadcast.

“We are saddened and horrified by this heinous attack on Baghdad TV which claimed the life of our colleague and friend Thaer Ahmad Jaber and critically injured several others,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We extend our condolences to Jaber’s family and while acknowledging the chaos and lawlessness that has engulfed Iraq, we fervently hope that one day there will be justice.”

Jaber often helped CPJ document attacks against journalists in Iraq. CPJ learned of Jaber’s death after calling his cell phone and being informed by a family member that he was killed today.

Baghdad TV has lost four other employees since June 2005; two of them were killed by U.S. forces in crossfire. On March 7, 2006, Munsuf Abdallah al-Khaldi, a presenter for the channel, was murdered by insurgents. Ahmed Riyadh al-Karbouli, a correspondent for Baghdad TV, was gunned down on September 18, 2006.  The station is owned by Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni political party.

Many journalists with Baghdad TV have received death threats and the channel was previously shelled by insurgents. On March 1, 2006, Baghdad TV came under artillery fire by insurgents. Four employees were injured by two shells which hit a parking area.

Earlier today, another journalist was killed in Iraq and a second remains missing after an earlier abduction.

At least 99 journalists, including Jaber, 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.