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CBS interpreter's murder brings toll of journalists and media workers killed since start of war to 200

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay on learning of the murder of Anwar Abbas Lafta, an Iraqi translator and interpreter employed by the US television network CBS News. Lafta's body was found on 25 August 2007, five days after he was abducted in Baghdad. His death brings the number of journalists and media workers killed in Iraq since the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003 to 200.

"We are appalled by this latest murder and by the new overall toll," the press freedom organisation said. "The number of journalists and media workers killed since the start of 2007 now stands at 49. This unbearable litany of death must stop and for that to happen, the Iraqi authorities must at least try to adopt measures to combat violent crime and impunity. Those who murder journalists in Iraq unfortunately have nothing to fear from the police and judicial authorities."

No war has ever been as deadly for the press. Whether foreigners or Iraqis, journalists are seen as key targets. 73 per cent of journalists killed in Iraq were directly targeted. This is much higher than in previous wars in which journalists were above all the victims of collateral damage and stray bullets.

Iraqi journalists have been among the leading victims of this war. Eighty-eight per cent of journalists and media workers killed were Iraqis. They are singled out by armed groups, often because they work for foreign news media. At the same time, they do not get the same protection as visiting foreign correspondents receive.

Most of the 200 media fatalities took place in Baghdad (110 cases) or near the capital (34 cases). Another 45 cases took place in the north of the country, above all in the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk.

More journalists are also taken hostage in Iraq than anywhere else in the world. A total of 84 journalists and media workers (64 per cent of them Iraqis) have been kidnapped there in the past four years. Only about half of them were freed. At least 27 were victims of execution-style murders, and 14 are still being held by their abductors.

Lafta was kidnapped by a group of 10 gunmen who forced their way into his Baghdad home on 20 August, beat his brother and shot and wounded his sister. Lafta was the only one they took away. CBS News said his abductors contacted the family several times to demand a ransom. The police eventually found his body in the eastern Baghdad district of Sadr City.

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