Reporter’s assassins remain at large one year on in Iraq

New York, July 20, 2009–Authorities in Kirkuk province must bring to justice those responsible for the 2008 murder of journalist Soran Mama Hama, at left, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on the eve of the anniversary of the reporter’s slaying. 

On the evening of July 21, 2008, unidentified gunmen murdered the 23-year-old reporter for the independent critical Sulaimaniya-based Livin magazine. 

Before his murder, Mama Hama had received threatening messages, according to local journalists and complaints the reporter had filed with the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate.

Mama Hama published an article in Livin before his death about the alleged complicity of the police and security officials in prostitution rings in Kirkuk. He claimed in the article that his sources had provided him with names of “police brigadiers, many lieutenants, colonels, and many police and security officers,” who were clients. The shooting occurred at around 9 p.m. in the dominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Shorija, a relatively safe area in Kirkuk. 

Local journalists told CPJ they fear political influence and conflicts of interests have been impediments in bringing the case to resolution. They also point to an alleged September 2008 assassination plot against Ahmed Mira, editor-in-chief of Livin, as evidence that the publication itself is being targeted.

Kirkuk Police Brig. Jamal Tahir told CPJ this month that the Mama Hama investigation is “still ongoing, but so far there is no result.” Mira told CPJ he believes little is being done. “The officials want to neglect the case in anyway they can,” he said.

“We are outraged that the killers of Soran Mama Hama continue to walk free,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “On this dark anniversary, we repeat our call to the authorities to do everything in their power to make sure that those responsible for the assassination are brought to justice without further delay.”

At least 139 journalists have been killed in Iraq, at least 89 of them murdered, since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Not a single murder case has been solved, CPJ research shows. Iraq ranks worst among all nations on CPJ’s Impunity Index, a ranking of countries where journalists are slain on a regular basis and the killers are unpunished. At least five journalists have been killed in Kirkuk.