Reporter is slain in Kirkuk

New York, July 22, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of Iraqi reporter Soran Mama Hama, who was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his home in Kirkuk on Monday night, according to news reports and CPJ interviews.

Mama Hama, 23, a reporter with the Sulaymaniyah-based Livin magazine, had received threatening messages before the slaying, local journalists told CPJ today. Mama Hama had written articles critical of local authorities, those journalists said.

His last article in Livin recounted the prevalence of prostitution in Kirkuk and the alleged complicity of police and security officials. In the article, which was reviewed by CPJ, Mama Hama claimed that he had collected the names of “police brigadiers, many lieutenants, colonels, and many police and security officers” who were clients.

Ahmed Mira, Livin’s editor-in-chief, told CPJ that the slaying was designed to “silence the free voices in Kirkuk.” He called the murder “a very dangerous” development for the region’s media.

Kirkuk Police Brig. Jamal Tahir told CPJ that the department had launched an investigation. He called it a “serious situation” that will get “special attention.”

“The killing of Soran Mama Hama again shows the terrible risks faced by journalists working in Iraq,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “His murder seems intended to silence critical reporting in a region where independent journalism is trying to establish a foothold. We call on the authorities do everything in their power to track down Mama Hama’s killers and bring them to justice.”

The shooting occurred at around 9 p.m. in the Shorija neighborhood, which is considered a relatively safe area. Initial accounts varied as to how many times Mama Hama was shot. Local journalists said the gunmen were driving a BMW.

At least 129 other journalists have been killed in Iraq in relation to their work since the U.S. invasion of March 2003, but Kirkuk is not considered among the most dangerous spots for the press. CPJ research shows three other journalists have died in the area since 2003.

The Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, which has begun issuing periodic reports on threats against the press, noted earlier this month that Mama Hama had received a threatening message from an unknown person on May 15. Latif Fatih Faraj, head of the syndicate’s Kirkuk chapter, called Mama Hama “a courageous and adventurous journalist.”