Attacks on Iraqi journalists should be investigated

New York, May 9, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns two official attacks on journalists working in Iraqi Kurdistan, including the assault on a television news crew and the arrest of an editor whose articles alleged corruption. CPJ also calls for an investigation into a car bombing that wounded a journalist in Baghdad.

“Iraq remains a hostile place for journalists who report critically,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Journalists routinely face threats, assaults, and arrest for carrying out their work.”

Kurdish security forces, known as Asaish, beat Al-Sumaria TV correspondent Milad Sami, cameraman Ali Nouri, and their driver, Sitar Gabaar as they covered a protest in front of the Kurdish Parliament building in Erbil on Tuesday, the broadcaster reported. Demonstrators were protesting an article they deemed “anti-Islamic” that was published in Kurdish monthly magazine Al-Hamsa, according to news reports. The Asaish forces also confiscated the broadcast crew’s equipment and van, the report said. Ziad al-Ajili, the director of Baghdad’s Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, told CPJ the journalists’ equipment was not returned.

The editor of a monthly magazine in Iraqi Kurdistan was arrested without a warrant and detained for about five days, news reports said. Sherwan Sherwani, the editor-in-chief of the critical Bashur, based in Dohuk province, was arrested on April 20 over two articles alleging public corruption, the journalist told CPJ. The journalist was released on bail of 1 million Iraqi dinars (US$848) on April 25 but an investigation is still pending, he said.

In Baghdad, a journalist was wounded when a bomb attached to his car detonated. On May 1, Majid Abd al-Hamid, a correspondent with the Baghdad-based independent Al-Rasheed satellite channel, was returning from a visit to a relative’s house when his car exploded, Al-Rasheed reported. The motive for the attack remains unclear. Al-Hamid was treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.

Journalists in Iraq are frequently subjected to arbitrary arrests, threats, harassment, beatings, or confiscation or destruction of their equipment, CPJ research shows.

CORRECTION: This alert has been modified to reflect that Sherwan Sherwani was released from prison on bail of 1 million Iraqi dinars (US$848).