Gunmen kill Iraqi journalist during attempted kidnapping

Editor’s note: The original text of this alert was modified to correct Ibrahim Al-Saraj’s professional affiliation.

New York, May 5, 2008–Unidentified gunmen shot and killed an Iraqi journalist in Mosul on Sunday after she resisted their attempt to kidnap her. The journalist, Sarwa Abdul-Wahab, and her mother were walking back from a nearby market to the journalist’s home when two masked gunmen pulled up in a car and tried to force the journalist into the waiting vehicle, according to The Associated Press. When she fought back, the gunmen shot her twice in the head, the AP reported.

“The killing of Sarwa Abdul-Wahab once again shows the world the incredible danger journalists working in Iraq face,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call upon the Iraqi authorities to do everything in their power to track down Abdul-Wahab’s murderers and bring them to justice.”

Abdul-Wahab, 36, was a freelance contributor for an Iraqi news Web site, Muraslon, the site’s editor, Mohamed al-Jebori, told CPJ. The AP reported that the site is affiliated with Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, but al-Jebori told CPJ that Muraslon has no political affiliation. He said she also worked for Saladin TV and was an attorney.

The head of the Iraqi Association for Journalists’ Rights’ Mosul branch, Yasir al-Hamadani, said Abdul-Wahab was a member, the AP reported. According to Reuters, Abdul-Wahab was working for a provincial electoral commission, but al-Jebori was unable to confirm this to CPJ.

Ibrahim Al-Saraj, head of the Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association, told CPJ that Abdul-Wahab had reported to him that she had received threatening phone calls two weeks ago warning her to quit her job “or else.” He and al-Jebori said they had each advised Abdul-Wahab to leave Mosul.

CPJ is investigating the circumstances surrounding the murder of Abdul-Wahab to determine whether the killing was related to her work.

Iraq remains the world’s deadliest nation for the press. At least 127 journalists and 50 media workers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to CPJ research. Iraq also tops CPJ’s Impunity Index, which measures unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of the population over the past decade.