New York, March 17, 2020–The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the abduction of Iraqi journalist Tawfiq al-Tamimi and urged Iraqi authorities to ensure his safety and to immediately open a transparent investigation and hold those responsible to account.
On March 9, unknown gunmen kidnapped al-Tamimi, an editor of regional news for the government-affiliated daily Al-Sabah, in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Ur when he was on his way to work and took him to an unknown destination, according to news reports, a statement by the journalist’s employer that CPJ has viewed, and the independent National Union of Journalists in Iraq (NUJI).
The March 10 statement by NUJI cited Ali al-Fawaz, editor-in-chief of Al-Sabah, as saying that the kidnappers intercepted al-Tamimi’s car as he was on his way to work along with a colleague, stole their cell phones, and kidnapped al-Tamimi at gunpoint.
“Al-Tamimi has no problems outside the field of journalism and until now we don’t know the reasons for his abduction,” al-Fawaz added, according to the NUJI statement.
“The abduction of Iraqi journalists is a very concerning trend that threatens press freedom in Iraq at a time when reliable information is vital,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on Iraqi authorities to do everything they can for the safety of Tawfiq al-Tamimi and to ensure that journalists can do their job without fear of reprisal.”
News reports and the independent press freedom organization the Journalists’ Support Committee (JSC) identified the colleague who was in the car with al-Tamimi as journalist Ali Hamoud al-Hassan. CPJ reached out to al-Hassan via social media but did not immediately receive a response.
Two days prior to his abduction, al-Tamimi posted on his Facebook account a picture of himself and author Mazen Latif and a text calling for the release of Latif, who has been missing since February 1, according to news reports. He also voiced support for the protests on his Facebook page.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
In a separate incident, the office of Al-Wafaa TV and Radio, an Iraqi broadcaster owned by the member of parliament and candidate for prime minister Adnan al-Zurfi in the city of Kufa, was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades fired by unknown assailants in the early hours of March 9, according to news reports, NUJI, and the Iraqi press freedom group the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq.
Pictures posted by NUJI show that windows were broken and the facade was damaged.
News reports cited security sources as saying that Al-Wafaa TV and Radio continued broadcasting shortly after the attack and that an investigative committee has been set up to investigate the cause of the attack.
CPJ could not independently verify the content of Al-Wafaa TV and Radio’s broadcasts, but its owner, al-Zurfi, is supportive of the ongoing protests and is currently running for the position of prime minister, according to a report by Al-Monitor and Al-Zurfi’s official Facebook account.
The Najaf Police Directorate did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment sent via social media.
Al-Wafaa TV and Radio did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment sent via social media.