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Journalists' union leader shot following criticism of attacks on media by extremists

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 23 February 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns "Shocking Outrage" After Iraqi Journalists' Leader is Gunned Down in Baghdad

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed outrage over the shooting this morning of the President of the Iraqi Union of Journalists in Baghdad.

The IUJ President, Shihab Al-Timimi, 75, is in hospital in critical but stable condition after his car was hit by a hail of bullets in a targeted attack following a meeting of the union leadership in the Al Wazeiriyah district in the centre of the city. He sustained bullet wounds to the stomach, shoulder and face. Al-Tamimi's son Rabei was also in the car and was slightly injured in the attack.

"This shocking outrage will be condemned by journalists all around the world," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It exposes in the most dramatic and painful way how journalists and their leaders are at risk. We demand that the Iraqi government investigates and finds who is responsible."

The attack comes as no surprise to the union of journalists. Both Timimi and the union's secretary general, Moaid Al-Lami, have been warned that their lives are threatened because of their criticism of attacks on media by political extremists.

"The Iraqi Union of Journalists is waiting for the government of Iraq to fully investigate and expose those who are behind this ugly crime," Al-Lami said.

The irony of the attack this morning was that it followed a meeting where union leaders had put the finishing touches to plans for a seminar on the safety of journalists to be held next week.

"The IFJ and its unions will continue to do all that is necessary to support the IUJ and protect its members from violent intimidation," White said. "This shocking event will only reinforce the resolve of Iraqi journalists to oppose extremism in all its forms."

The IFJ with the International News Safety Institute has supported the creation of an Iraq Media Safety Group, supported by leading media and the journalists' union. The Safety Group has developed a comprehensive strategy for the protection of the country's media staff in response to more than 250 killings since the conflict started in 2003.

"The absolute priority here is to end impunity and to eliminate this deadly threat to the exercise of journalism," White said. "We now call on the government to take action before there are more tragedies."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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