Saif Talal

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Talal, a correspondent for the independent television channel Al-Sharqiya, was shot dead alongside one of the station’s cameraman, Hassan al-Anbaki, on January 12, 2016, according to the channel and news reports. Talal and al-Anbaki were driving near the Diyala province capital of Baquba when unidentified gunmen intercepted their vehicle, forced them to get out the car, and opened fire, according to news reports that cited unnamed security officials.

Al-Sharqiya journalist Minas al-Suhail told Agence France-Presse that the journalists, who were accompanied by an Iraqi general, were returning from a reporting trip to the Muqdadiyah area, which the night before had been hit by twin bombings that killed 20 people in a café. As they passed through the village of Abu Saida, the gunmen stopped the journalists’ car, which had lagged behind the general’s convoy, al-Suhail said. It is not clear if the journalists’ car or clothing identified them as press.

In a statement published on its website on January 12 Al-Sharqiya accused “one of the militias on the loose” of carrying out the murder. The station, which had its license suspended by the Iraqi Commission of Media and Communications in 2013 for using a “sectarian tone” in its coverage of Sunni protests, did not accuse any specific militia or armed group of carrying out the attack.

In its live broadcast, Al-Sharqiya reported that Talal survived an assassination attempt by unknown gunmen two years ago. The station broadcast an interview with Talal at that time, in which he vowed to continue his work for the channel. In a series of tweets just hours before his death, Talal warned that strict security measures were needed against all those who operate outside the law in Diyala province and criticized extremists of all sects for failing to know the true meaning of humanity.

The Iraqi press freedom group Journalistic Freedoms Observatory said in a statement it emailed to CPJ that it holds the Iraqi military command in Diyala responsible for the killing of the journalists. It called on the command to investigate the murders and to improve protection for journalists. The Iraqi Journalists Syndicate called on officials to take “all possible efforts” to find the perpetrators.

Iraqi security forces bolstered by Shia militias declared victory over Islamic State militants in Diyala province in early 2014, but violence had spiked repeatedly since that declaration, according to news reports. Meanwhile, human rights organizations and news organizations documented likely war crimes and atrocities committed by Shia militias supporting the Iraqi government, including in Diyala province.

Talal leaves behind a wife and young son, Al-Sharqiya reported.