Beirut, February 12, 2020 -- Iraqi authorities should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the killing of Al-Rasheed TV chief executive officer Nizar Thanoun and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday morning, unidentified individuals with machine guns opened fire on Thanoun in front of his home in western Baghdad’s Al-Jamaa neighborhood, according to news reports and a report by Al-Rasheed TV.
The attackers fired from a motorcycle without license plates and then fled the scene, according to those reports. Thanoun died at the scene, according to a report by the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, a local press freedom group.
Iraqi security forces cordoned off the scene and have opened an investigation into the killing, according to the report by Al-Rasheed TV.
“Iraqi authorities must conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the killing of Al-Rasheed CEO Nizar Thanoun and determine whether his killing was related to his work,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Iraqi authorities have an appalling record of letting killings go unpunished—including those of members of the media—which only encourages further deadly attacks.”
Al-Rasheed TV is a Baghdad-based broadcaster owned by Saad Assim al-Janabi, head of the Iraqi Republican Assembly Party, an opposition party that does not have any seats in parliament, according to those news reports. Thanoun was a senior member of the party, according to an obituary post on Facebook by al-Janabi.
In November 2019, the broadcaster was among eight outlets that were suspended by Iraq’s media regulator over their critical coverage of protests against alleged government mismanagement, as CPJ documented at the time.
The three-month suspension was issued on November 12 and is set to expire today, according to CPJ’s research.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment. CPJ emailed Al-Rasheed TV today to ask if Thanoun or the network had received threats for their coverage, but did not immediately receive a response.
On January 10, Dijlah TV reporter Ahmed Abdul Samad and camera operator Safaa Ghali were killed after unknown gunmen opened fire on their car in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, CPJ documented at the time.