On January 10, 2020, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Dijlah TV reporter Ahmed Abdul Samad and camera operator Safaa Ghali, while they were covering protests in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, according to news reports and a report by the journalists’ employer.
Samad died at the scene of the attack, according to a video posted on Dijlah TV’s website, which showed him slumped in the passenger seat of the car with a bullet wound to the right side of his head. The video shows at least three bullet holes in the right front door of the car.
Ghali was taken to Basra General Hospital where he died shortly afterward, according to news reports and Dijlah TV’s report. A report by the news website Al-Mirbad said that Ghali was shot three times in the chest.
Samad and Ghali had been covering the waves of protests that took place in Iraq beginning on October 1, 2019, and which have seen hundreds killed, according to news reports. Diljah TV is an Amman-based broadcaster funded by Jamal al-Karbouli, the head of the Sunni Al-Hal Party, according to reports.
According to a report by Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, the journalists’ friends and colleagues believe the attack was tied to Samad and Ghali’s work, saying that they were targeted because they had reported critically on militias that had attacked protesters.
On January 12, Iraqi Interior Minister Yassin al-Yasiri dispatched a team headed by the undersecretary for police affairs to Basra to investigate the killings and hold those responsible to account, news reports said.
According to a statement by the regional human rights group the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Samad had received death threats from militias prior to his assassination.
A few hours prior to his death, Samad posted a video on his Facebook account about Iraqi security forces’ arrests of protesters in Basra. After he was killed, Dijlah TV posted footage of Samad’s work interviewing protesters.
Amid the protests, on November 12, 2019, Iraq’s media regulator ordered Dijlah TV and seven other outlets off the air, and on November 26, Iraqi security forces raided the Baghdad office of the broadcaster, according to CPJ reporting.