New York, June 18, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the detention of two Iraqi journalists who have been held for two weeks without formal charge or access to a lawyer in connection with the alleged theft of a senior official’s notebook.
Police arrested Mohammed Fouad, a journalist for the independent satellite channel ANB, and his assistant, Afdhel Jumaa, at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad on June 4, according to news reports. The two were accused of taking a notebook belonging to Saadoun al-Dulaimi, who serves as both the Minister of Defense and Minister of Culture, while they were covering a meeting three days earlier. The contents of the notebook have not been disclosed.
An unidentified defense ministry official told Agence France-Presse that security cameras had showed one of the journalists hiding the notebook under his shirt during the June 1 meeting. But news reports citing the journalists’ family members said Fouad and Jumaa had simply found the notebook and given it to an official within the Ministry of Culture. Al-Dulaimi never received the notebook, reports said.
Article 19 of the Iraqi Constitution requires authorities to submit a warrant to a judge within 24 hours of an arrest. Fouad’s brother told CPJ the journalists had not been given access to a lawyer while in custody. No official charges have been announced.
Relatives of Fouad have told CPJ and the local press freedom group Society for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iraq that the journalists were subjected to physical abuse by investigative officials. The Society said in a statement that the ministry refused to comment on the case.
“The government can’t claim to be upholding the rule of law when it is violating the law itself,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Iraqi authorities should not be holding Mohammed Fouad and Afdhel Jumaa without charge and without access to a lawyer for two weeks.”
While Iraq has been quick to investigate this incident, it has yet to fully investigate and prosecute any of the 93 cases of murdered journalists in the past 10 years. Iraq ranks first on CPJ’s annual Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population.
- For more data and analysis on Iraq, visit CPJ’s Iraq page here.