Journalists injured while covering protests in northwestern Iraq

Two journalists covering demonstrations in northwestern Iraq suffered injuries on March 22, 2019, when they were struck by a vehicle carrying the provincial governor, according to an account by one of the journalists, and local press freedom groups.

A third journalist also received medical treatment after being caught in a crush of protesters, the same sources said.

Leith al-Rashedi and Karam al-Taiee, reporter and cameraman for the news website Yalla Network, were documenting protests over the local administration’s response to a fatal ferry accident on the Tigris River near the city of Mosul when they were struck by a car carrying then Governor Nofal al-Akoub as it sped up to evade protesters, according to al-Taiee, local press freedom group Center for Supporting Freedom of Expression, and the National Union of Iraqi Journalists. The Iraqi Parliament dismissed al-Akoub from his governorship of Nineveh province in relation to the ferry accident on March 24, according to news reports.

Al-Taiee told CPJ in a Facebook message that he and al-Rashedi were filming as protesters blocked the road and surrounded a convoy of vehicles carrying officials, including Iraqi President Barham Saleh. Saleh addressed the protesters before leaving the area unharmed, according to al-Taiee and news reports, but a video of the incident posted on Facebook shows protesters throwing bricks at Nofal al-Akoub’s chauffeur-driven car.

“[The car] sped up, hitting me in the hand and my colleague Leith in the head,” al-Taiee told CPJ. A video posted on Facebook by another journalist at the scene shows members of the Red Crescent carrying al-Rashedi to an ambulance, bleeding from a wound near his left eye. Ali al-Nuaimi, a journalist with Al-Mosulliyya TV, was separately taken to hospital after passing out in a crush of protesters, according to al-Taiee and the journalists’ union.

Al-Rashedi and al-Nuaimi were released from Al-Salam Hospital in Mosul after receiving treatment, al-Taiee told CPJ.

Over 100 people were killed when the ferry sank on March 21, overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish New Year, Nowruz, according to local and international news reports. Protesters blamed the overcrowding and lack of safety vests on official negligence, and a local court subsequently issued an arrest warrant for al-Akoub on charge of misusing public funds, the reports said. The warrant had yet to be executed in early April due to administrative delays, according to Al-Monitor.

Al-Akoub did not comment on the charges against him, according to international news reports. Al-Taiee told CPJ that al-Akoub did not slow his vehicle after it struck the journalists, or issue an apology for the injuries caused. Al-Akoub did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment about the collision.