Reporters Without Borders calls for special unit to protect journalists

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for the creation of a special task force to protect journalists as violence claimed the lives of at least five Iraqi journalists last week.

RSF urged the Iraqi authorities on 31 May to establish a special police unit to investigate the killings of journalists and organise awareness programmes among Iraqi security forces and the public.

"The Iraqi authorities must fulfil their duty to protect journalists," the group said in a statement on its website. “We call for the creation of a special force within the national police to identify the perpetrators and instigators of the killings of journalists.”

RSF also recommended that a witness protection programme be set up with the help of Iraq's neighbours to aid investigations.

An official in the Iraqi Cabinet, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media, told IRIN that RSF’s proposal had been circulating in government corridors but would be hard to implement because of the deteriorated security situation in the country.

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"The government is facing big challenges right now and this kind of protection force will undermine our efforts in hunting down terrorists," the official said.
"We have postponed this project until we impose our control [over the country] because we can't offer a policeman to each journalist or a patrol for a media company while their [policemen’s] presence in other areas is more important."

RSF also voiced shock at the murders of four Iraqi journalists by armed groups since 26 May.

Killings in Kirkuk, Fallujah, Amarah, Baghdad

Citing Iraqi police, the group said the body of Aidan Abdullah al-Jamiji, who was in charge of Kirkuk television's Turkoman language section and was a well-known local musician, was found on 26 May in the boot of his car. The car had been torched and dumped near a cemetery in the northern city of Kirkuk.

''...we can't offer a policeman to each journalist or a patrol for a media company while their [policemen’s] presence in other areas is more important.''


Two days later, Mahmoud Hassib al-Kassab, editor of the weekly al-Hawadith newspaper and a member of a local Turkoman group, was shot dead outside his home in the northern part of Kirkuk.

Abdul-Rahman al-Issawi, a 34-year-old journalism professor at Baghdad University and a contributor to several newspapers, was killed on 29 May along with seven family members when gunmen stormed into his home, west of Fallujah, and opened fire.

Nizar al-Radhi, 38, an employee of the independent news agency Voices of Iraq and correspondent since last year for Radio Free Iraq, was shot dead while several of his colleagues were wounded in a drive-by shooting on 30 May as they were leaving a news conference outside the city hall of Amarah, southeast of Baghdad.

In addition, Saif M. Fakhry, a 26-year-old Associated Press cameraman, was shot dead on 31 May as he was walking to a mosque during clashes in the Sunni neighbourhood of Amiriyah in Baghdad. His death was not included in the Reporters without Borders statement.

Excluding Fakhry's death, RSF said 181 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

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