Two journalists killed in separate incidents

New York, May 22, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by the deaths of two Iraqi journalists who were killed in separate incidents this week.

Wisam Ali Ouda, a cameraman for the Afaq television station, was shot as he walked home in the Obaidi district of Baghdad on Wednesday morning, Reuters reported. The station’s public relations head Bushra Abdul-Amir told Reuters that witnesses said Ouda was shot by an “American sniper.” Station secretary Ghufran al-Bakri told CPJ that Ouda was returning home from an assignment at around 5 p.m. local time.  

Maj. James C. Hall, a military spokesman, told CPJ that military operations have been ongoing in the area and that the incident was under investigation, although he declined to provide specific details. In a subsequent e-mail statement, Hall said “coalition forces only engage hostile threats and take every precaution to protect innocent civilians. We have not confirmed that any Iraqi civilians were killed as a result of this operation.” The statement alleged that “all involved in this incident were emplacing IEDs or supporting that effort.”

CPJ is investigating the shooting.

“We are deeply troubled by this shooting and call on U.S. authorities to swiftly investigate this matter and to publicly detail their findings as soon as possible,” said CPJ Senior Program Coordinator Joel Campagna.

Ouda had a degree in journalism and had worked as a cameraman for 10 years, according to staff at the channel. He joined Afaq TV in 2006. 

CPJ is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the reported death of Al-Sharq newspaper reporter Haidar Hashim al-Husseini, whose body was found on Wednesday in a field in Diyala province along with other dead bodies. Al-Husseini was seized on Tuesday outside his home, Reuters said. His body was bound and had a single bullet wound to the head.

At least 127 journalists and 50 media support staffers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for the press in CPJ’s 27-year history. About 90 percent of media deaths have been Iraqis.