In Iraq, bomb kills one journalist; another denied access

New York, December 15, 2010–Omar Rasim al-Qaysi, an anchor working for Al-Anbar TV, was killed on Sunday in a car bombing in central Ramadi, al-Anbar province. His brother, a fellow staffer at the station, was injured in the attack. Security forces then detained a journalist for the daily Al-Anbar, preventing him from covering the explosion’s aftermath.

The bomb killed at least 13 people, including al-Qaysi, at 10 a.m. as the sports journalist and his brother Mustafa were walking to work, according to news reports. Mustafa al-Qaysi, a cameraman for Al-Anbar, was injured in the blast as were about 40 others, said Uthman al-Mukhtar, a representative for Iraqi press freedom group the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO). The Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news reports. 

Saddam Mahdi, a reporter and photojournalist for Al-Anbar, was detained at the site later that day as he photographed the explosion’s aftermath, according to JFO. Security forces arrested Mahdi and confiscated his camera. He was held for several hours and released the same day.

“As bombings continue in Iraq, journalists like Omar al-Qaysi regularly pay a high price for covering daily events,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “But bombs are not the only factor obstructing news coverage. We call on security forces to stop preventing journalists from covering the aftermath of such attacks–we ask them to let journalists do their job.”

In 2007, the Interior Ministry announced that journalists would be banned from the sites of explosions for an hour. It justified its decision by calling it a means of protecting journalists from follow-up explosions and as a way to preserve evidence. Numerous local and international journalists told CPJ they believe the ban was intended to restrict coverage of violent attacks. In May 2007, CPJ wrote to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asking for a reversal of the policy.

“The Interior Ministry should immediately explain why Mahdi was detained and guarantee the return of his confiscated equipment,” Abdel Dayem said.