International journalist detained in Iraq for a week

New York, January 30, 2013–Iraqi authorities should immediately release an international journalist who has been held without charge for a week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Nadir Dendoune, a French-Australian journalist of Algerian descent, was arrested on January 23 in Baghdad, according to local press freedom organizations and an Agence France-Presse report citing the journalist’s family members, colleagues, and an official from the French consulate.

Dendoune was detained in the neighborhood of Dora while attempting to gather information for a report for the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to AFP. Police told the official from the French consulate that they had arrested him for taking pictures of unspecified restricted locations, the AFP report said. But the journalist’s sister, Houria Dendoune, said he had been photographing a local water filtration station, which was not a restricted location, the AFP report said.

No official charges have been filed against Dendoune, but Iraqi authorities accused him of not being registered or accredited under Iraqi law, according to the local press freedom group Journalistic Freedoms Observatory. The Journalist Protection Law, implemented in November 2011, says journalists have the “right to obtain information, news, statements, and statistics … within the limits of the law,” but does not specify the law. CPJ has said in the past that ambiguities in the law create unnecessary barriers to access to information and that the law falls short of international standards of freedom of expression.

“The arbitrary jailing of a journalist is a vestige of the Saddam Hussein regime that is completely out of place in Iraq’s democracy today,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Nadir Dendoune should be released immediately.”

The Iraqi Syndicate for Journalists condemned Dendoune’s detention, calling it a violation of Iraqi law and the constitution and saying that it distorted the country’s image in front of the international community.

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