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IFJ urges Parliament to prioritise law to protect media workers

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls on Iraqi Parliament to Act Now Over Law to Protect Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and parliamentary leaders to give priority to legislation that will guarantee the basic rights of journalists and provide much needed protection for media workers. The IFJ particularly welcomes the contribution by the Iraqi Union of Journalists and their draft proposal recently circulated to government officials and parliamentarians.

"The Prime Minister must make the finalising of this law an urgent priority to renew confidence in the government's commitment to Iraqi journalists," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "The government should act on the proposal developed by the IUJ which establishes a legal basis for protection of journalists and offers support to the families of killed journalists."

The IFJ is urging Mahmoud Mashadani, speaker of the Parliament of Iraq, and Khaled El-Atiyyah, deputy speaker, to fulfill promises they made to the IFJ mission to Baghdad early this year to do all that they can to protect the Iraqi journalists and to support the efforts made by the IUJ toward this end.

Iraqi journalists continue to pay a terrible price for their commitment to the profession and a law protecting the rights of journalists would be a significant tribute to that sacrifice. The Iraqi Union of Journalists (IUJ) has proposed a legal framework for protection of journalists and their rights and is urging the Iraqi Parliament to pass it into law. The law would ensure medical treatment for injured journalists and provide support to the families of killed journalists.

"Despite the tragic death of IUJ President Shihab Al-Timimi, who died after being shot as he left a planning session for a journalist safety seminar, the IUJ has been steadfast in its mission to support and protect Iraqi journalists," said White. "They established the Iraqi Media Security Group, they raised and distributed funds for the families of victims of violence, and now they seek a response from the government that will guarantee the necessary legal environment for safe and independent journalism."

Since the US invasion in March 2003, Iraq has been the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. At least 273 journalists have been killed in Iraq, many in targeted attacks.

The IFJ and its member unions have stood in solidarity with their Iraqi colleagues in their fight to hold the Iraqi government and US and coalition forces responsible for investigating journalist killings and prosecuting those responsible.

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

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