Two Iraqi journalists shot dead in Mosul

New York, October 7, 2013–Two Iraqi journalists were shot dead by unidentified assailants in the city of Mosul on Saturday, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the killing and calls on the Iraqi government to ensure the perpetrators are held to account.

Gunmen opened fire on Mohammed Karim al-Badrani, correspondent for the independent TV channel Al-Sharqiya, and Mohammed Ghanem, a cameraman, while they were filming in the Al-Sarjkhana area of Mosul in Nineveh province, the station said. The journalists were hit in the head and chest, the reports said.

It was not immediately clear what the journalists were filming at the time of the attack. A report by the Society for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iraq said they were filming a report on a market in the Al-Sarjkhana area. Al-Baghdadia cited an unnamed security source who said the journalists were reporting on the preparations for the upcoming holiday of Eid al-Adha.

It was also unclear why the journalists were targeted. An unidentified Al-Sharqiya journalist told Agence France-Presse that recent reports by the station on security operations in Mosul had angered anti-government militants. The journalist said the station had received death threats by the militants.

But Al-Sharqiya, which is popular among Iraq’s Sunni minority, is also known for its critical editorial stance against the Shia-led government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In April, the government suspended Al-Sharqiya’s license, along with those of nine other channels, after accusing the stations of adopting a “sectarian tone” in the aftermath of a security raid against Sunni-led demonstrations that killed dozens.

The governor of Nineveh, Atheel al-Nujaifi, said an investigation had been opened into the killing of the journalists. He also said the attack aimed to “muzzle the voice of people.”

The channel’s news director, Ali Wajih, told The Associated Press, “This is not new for Al-Sharqiya. This is usual for Iraq, that they kill journalists.”

The Iraqi Interior Ministry released a statement today, announcing the formation of a joint committee with UNESCO and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold a conference on the protection of journalists and combating impunity. The statement did not mention the October 5 killing of the Al-Sharqiya journalists.

The deaths of al-Badrani and Ghanem came amid escalating violence in the country that left thousands dead this year. At least four other journalists have been killed in Iraq in 2013. CPJ continues to investigate whether their deaths were work-related. With no sign that authorities are investigating to solve any of the 93 journalist killings in the past decade, Iraq ranks the worst in the world on CPJ’s annual Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free.

“If you want to prevent future murders of journalists in Iraq, then you have to end the impunity for past murders,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “There have been so many journalists killed in Iraq that the government may not have the capacity to fully investigate each one; however, starting today, it must do a better job. So far, not one successful prosecution has been brought.”

In an unrelated case, authorities in September refused to renew the license for Al-Baghdadia TV satellite channel, the station reported. Police raided the station’s Baghdad office and confiscated equipment, accusing the station of operating without a license. On Sunday, three journalists from Al-Baghdadia were detained by security forces in the city of Nasiriyah for operating without a license, the Society for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iraq reported.  The station reported that its journalists were released today.

  • For more data and analysis on Iraq, visit CPJ’s Iraq page here.