Journalists slain in a bloody week in Iraq

New York, June 1, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists mourns the slayings of four Iraqi journalists during an especially deadly week in the country.

Nazar Abdulwahid al-Radhi, 38, a correspondent for the independent news agency Aswat al-Iraq and Radio Free Iraq, was gunned down in the southern city of Al-Amarah on Wednesday morning. Three men wearing white uniforms and riding in a pickup truck killed al-Radhi outside the Al-Arusa Hotel in the city’s center, Saad Hassan, an eyewitness and reporter for the daily newspaper Al-Sabah, told Aswat al-Iraq.

Al-Radhi had finished covering a journalism workshop for Radio Free Iraq, according to a statement by its parent, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Hassan told Aswat al-Iraq that al-Radhi was talking to a workshop leader when the gunmen began firing. RFE/RL said al-Radhi was shot four times and died at the scene; several other journalists were injured. Eyewitnesses said nearby Iraqi police did not intervene during the attack, Aswat al-Iraq reported.

RFE/RL reported that al-Radhi had received prior threats because of his work for a “foreign agency.” Radio Free Iraq is the Arabic-language service of RFE/RL in Iraq and broadcasts from the network’s headquarters in Prague. In April, Radio Free Iraq reporter Khamail Khalaf was kidnapped and murdered in Baghdad.

This week, three other journalists were killed. On Thursday, Associated Press Television News cameraman Saif Fakhry, 26, was killed in Baghdad’s western neighborhood of Al-Aamariyah. Fakhry was shot as he was heading to a mosque near his home, The Associated Press reported. He had taken the day off to spend time with his pregnant wife, the news agency said.

Al-Aamariyah has been the site of intense fighting between al-Qaeda gunmen and Sunni extremist militants. It was unclear whether Fakhry was killed in crossfire or if he was targeted, according to the AP. CPJ is investigating the circumstances behind his death.

On Monday, gunmen raided the home of Abdul Rahman al-Issawi, a reporter for the online National Iraqi News Agency, in Amiriyat al-Fallujah, near the Iraqi city of Fallujah in Anbar province, and took the journalist, his brother, and his father to a nearby location and killed them. An editor at the news agency told CPJ that members of al-Issawi’s family heard the shooting and engaged the gunmen. Five members of the family were killed in the clash, he said. The source told CPJ that al-Issawi worked for the National Iraqi News Agency for more than a year and had freelanced for several Iraqi publications. CPJ is investigating the circumstances behind his murder.

Also on Monday night, Mahmoud Hassib al-Qassab, editor-in-chief of the defunct bilingual weekly Al-Hawadith, was gunned down near his home in the center of Kirkuk, local journalists told CPJ. Al-Qassab, who also heads the Turkmen Salvation Movement, was returning from his political party’s office when he was shot. CPJ sources said they believed his murder was related to his political work rather than his journalism. CPJ is investigating to determine the reason behind his murder.

At least 105 journalists, including Nazar Abdulwahid al-Radhi, 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.