In Iraq, body of abducted editor found in morgue

New York, June 18, 2007—The body of an Iraqi newspaper editor was found in Baghdad’s main morgue on Sunday, four days after he was abducted by armed men. Filaih Wuday Mijthab, who worked with the government-run daily Al-Sabah, suffered bullet wounds to the head, the independent news agency Aswat al-Iraq reported.

There has been no claim of responsibility. Insurgent and other armed groups have frequently targeted Al-Sabah and other state-run media because of their ties to the U.S.-supported Iraqi government. The New York Times reported on Monday that Mijthab could have been targeted by Shiite groups because of his past work for state-run media under the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Mijthab, like many of the newspaper’s employees, had received numerous telephone threats while working at Al-Sabah, the paper reported.

Gunmen in three vehicles intercepted Mijthab, 53 as he was traveling to work in Baghdad’s eastern Shiite neighborhood of Al-Habibiya. Mijthab, who was with his eldest son and a driver, was ordered out of the vehicle at gunpoint, according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi press freedom organization. Mijthab was taken to an unknown location; his son and the driver were not seized.

At least 14 journalists and 10 media support staffers from the government-run Iraq Media Network, which includes Al-Sabah, have been killed in Iraq since 2003—by far the largest casualty figure for a single news organization.

“This cruel and senseless attack shows that those who murder journalists continue to do so with frightening ease and impunity,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Mijthab was the third journalist killed in Iraq this month. Aref Ali Filaih, a correspondent for Aswat al-Iraq was killed by a roadside bomb on June 11 while on his way to an assignment south of the town of Al-Khalis in the violence-plagued Diyala province. On June 7, Sahar Hussein Ali al-Haydari, another correspondent for Aswat al-Iraq who also worked with the National Iraqi News Agency (NINA), was murdered in Mosul by unidentified gunmen after receiving multiple threats due to her work.

At least 108 journalists and 39 media support staffers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, making Iraq the deadliest conflict for the press in CPJ’s 26-year history. About four in five media deaths have been Iraqis.