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RSF CALLS FOR SPECIAL TASK FORCE TO PROBE KILLING OF REPORTERS

In a week when five journalists were killed by armed groups, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) is calling for the creation of a special task force within the national police to tackle violence against journalists.

The task force would investigate the killings and organise awareness campaigns about journalist safety for the security forces and the public. RSF also recommends a witness protection programme be set up with the help of neighbouring countries.

In Kirkuk, the body of Aidan Abdallah al-Jamiji, a Kirkuk Television employee, was found on 26 May in the trunk of his car, which had been torched and dumped near the local cemetery, RSF reports.

Two days later, Mahmoud Hassib al-Qassab, editor of the defunct weekly "Al-Hawadith" and a member of the Turkmen Salvation Movement, was gunned down outside his home in northern Kirkuk, says RSF.

RSF also reports that on 29 May, a journalism professor at Baghdad University and reporter for the online National Iraqi News Agency, Abdul-Rahman al-Issawi, was killed along with seven members of his family when gunmen stormed his home in Amariyah, near Fallujah.

Then on 30 May, Nazar Abdulwahid al-Radhi, a correspondent for the independent news agency Aswat al-Iraq (Voices of Iraq) and Radio Free Iraq, was fatally shot when three gunmen in a pick up truck opened fire on a group of journalists who had gone to a news conference outside Amara's city hall. Several other journalists were wounded. Eyewitnesses said nearby Iraqi police did not intervene during the attack, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

CPJ also reports that Saif Fakhry, an Associated Press Television News cameraman, was killed in Baghdad's western neighbourhood of Al-Aamariyah as he was heading to a mosque near his home on 31 May. Al-Aamariyah has been the site of intense fighting between al-Qaeda gunmen and Sunni extremist militants. It was unclear whether Fakhry was killed in crossfire or if he was targeted.

George Packer, a staff writer for "The New Yorker", notes in an article for CPJ that the killing of Iraqi journalists is systematic and makes journalism impossible. "That Iraqi journalists are continuing to work at all is a testament to their courage," says Packer, "because every one of them is marked for death." Packer urges Western news organisations and fellow journalists to "support [their Iraqi colleagues] in their work, honour them in their death, and help them in their departure."

Visit these links:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=22362
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2007/mideast/iraq1jun07na.html
- Packer, "Our Debt to Iraqi Journalists": http://tinyurl.com/2hmoe3
(5 June 2007)

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