Rising violence against journalists in Iraq

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) is extremely concerned at the rising violence against journalists in Iraq. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a media advocacy group, at least 15 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the start of 2013. The culture of impunity is fuelling the violence against journalists, diminishing the safety of reporters and freedom of the press. Last week, on May 5ththe body of Raed al-Joubouri, a journalist from the Azzaman newspaper, was found dead in his home in Baghdad. Al-Joubouri was a government critic who wrote articles about institutional corruption and feared for his life due to the many death threats he received, before he was shot in the heart last week.

 Raed al-Joubouri’s assassination came just days after the head of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, Ammar al-Shahbander, was killed in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad on 2nd May.

In April, Ned Parker, the Baghdad bureau chief for Reuters, left Iraq after receiving threats following the publication of a Reuters investigation, which exposed human-rights abuses in Tikrit when Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed militias expelled the Islamic State (IS). Two Reuters journalists reported the lynching of an IS fighter by Iraqi police and extensive looting and arson, which local politicians blamed on Iranian-backed militia. Ned Parker was subsequently threatened on a Facebook page linked to Shi’ite militias, which called for his expulsion from Iraq. One, commenting on the page, argued that the best way to silence Parker would be to kill him. A few days later, a television station owned by the Iranian-backed paramilitary group Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq showed Parker’s photo accusing him and Reuters of denigrating Iraq and its government-backed forces and called on the viewers to demand his expulsion.

“The killing of journalists is unacceptable and the perpetrators of these heinous crimes must be brought to justice. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must undertake the necessary measures to bring an immediate end to corruption and impunity in order to counter the increasing violence against journalists,” said Struan Stevenson, President at EIFA.

Iraq has been ranked 156th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

 The European Iraqi Freedom Association condemns in the strongest terms the killing of journalists in Iraq and calls on the government to launch an investigation and hold the culprits of war crimes accountable. 

Note: Struan Stevenson was a Conservative Euro MP representing Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until 2014. He was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009-2014. He is currently President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).