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JOURNALIST SLAIN IN KIRKUK

A journalist who had received threats for his investigative reporting was gunned down outside of his home in Kirkuk in Iraqi Kurdistan, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Soran Mama Hama, 23, a reporter with the independent magazine "Livin", was killed instantly outside of his home by four unidentified men who fled in a BMW.

One of his colleagues at "Livin" told RSF that the aim of his murder was "to gag the newspaper, which has always been very critical of the government."

Hama had worked for "Livin" for more than three years. An article he had written in the latest issue was about the involvement of Kurdish officials in prostitution rings.

His colleagues said he had received threats about articles he had written on sensitive subjects.

The image of Iraqi Kurdistan - as a place of freedom and tolerance following the 1991 Gulf War - is being severely tarnished by a disturbing rise in attacks on journalists over the past three years, says "The Other Iraq", a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Hama's "murder seems intended to silence critical reporting in a region where independent journalism is trying to establish a foothold," says CPJ.

According to CPJ, 130 journalists have been killed in Iraq in relation to their work since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Four of them were killed in Kirkuk.

A collective of 66 Kurdish journalists sent a petition to the authorities in Kurdistan condemning Hama's murder and urging them to ensure the killing does not go unpunished. "It is a cowardly attempt to silence liberal voices in Kurdistan. We are not afraid of such threats and we will never stop writing the truth," they said.

The Kirkuk police told CPJ that it has launched an investigation. A spokesperson said it was a "serious situation" that will get "special attention."

Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2008/mideast/iraq22jul08na.html
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=27900
- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/54sylf
- CPJ, "The Other Iraq": http://www.cpj.org/other.iraq/index.html
(23 July 2008)

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