Attacks target Iraqi journalists

SUNDAY, OCT. 15, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Gunmen killed a radio journalist and kidnapped a television reporter, police said Saturday, continuing a spate of attacks that have killed 14 members of the media in recent weeks.

Hussam Ahmed, a correspondent for the independent TV station Nahrain (Two Rivers), was forced from his car at gunpoint Saturday, police said. The gunmen took him away in another car. There has been no communication from the kidnappers.

Police also reported the shooting of another journalist, announcer Raid Qais of Sawt al Iraq (Voice of Iraq) radio, while he was driving to work in the Dora neighborhood of southwest Baghdad on Friday. Qais died instantly in the gunfire, police said.

Three other journalists recently have been kidnapped or killed in roadside attacks and 11 employees of a television station were killed by gunmen Thursday. A convoy of armed men, some wearing police uniforms, invaded the al-Shaabiya satellite television station and opened fire at executives, technicians and guards. General manager Abdul-Rahim Nasrallah al-Shimari was among those killed.

The attacks are raising concern that the groups responsible for Iraq’s sectarian blood-letting are turning their attention to the news media.

“They’re trying to hide the reality of the crimes they are committing in Iraq by killing the individuals who are transmitting that reality to the whole world,” said Ziad Ajili, head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi free-speech watchdog group.

Although many of Iraq’s media outlets have some political or tribal affiliation, most of the recent victims worked for organizations that are considered relatively independent.

Ajili said some attacks on journalists might involve political or tribal motives, but “the first thing is because they are journalists.”

“I think there is a campaign against journalism,” said Saif Qaissi, a reporter for a foreign news agency who was a friend of Qais, the slain announcer. “It has been escalating for four months.”

Qaissi said reporters covering public affairs in Iraq face a high-stakes dilemma. If they praise the government, anti-government groups might accuse them of being tied to a group in power. If they criticize, they might be accused of trying to destabilize the country.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists reported Friday that 85 journalists and 35 media support workers have been killed since March 2003, making Iraq the deadliest conflict for the media in the group’s 25 years of keeping track.

Elsewhere in Iraq, authorities reported finding 18 victims of execution in Baghdad and seven more in Duluiya, north of Baghdad, where 14 bodies also had been found Friday.

A bomb killed one person and injured two in east Baghdad.


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