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There's a popular reality TV show in Iraq right now that airs only during the month of Ramadan, when devout Muslims fast from dawn until sundown. On "Your Iftar Is On Us", a television crew surprises a poor Iraqi family with food and household goods each night when they break the fast (iftar) during the holy month.

On 13 September, as an Al-Sharqiya TV host and some of her crew were waiting inside the house of the featured family that night, other crew members who were getting the TV equipment were abducted, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Hours later, three young journalists and their driver were found dead, shot in the head and chest and dumped on the outskirts of Mosul, the second deadliest city in Iraq after Baghdad.

CPJ reports that police in Mosul have arrested at least two suspects - a welcome development, says CPJ, considering Iraq is the deadliest country in the world for the press and no one has ever been convicted for the murder of a journalist.

Al-Sharqiya, an independent station that has been on the air since 2004, identified the dead as senior correspondent Musab al-Ezawi, cameramen Ahmed Salim and Ihab Mu'd, and driver Qaydar Sulaiman. According to news reports, regular programming was cancelled and replaced by the most recent episode of "Your Iftar Is On Us", with a black stripe showing in the upper left corner of the TV screen in memory of the slain employees.

"We won't let armed groups do as they please," Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani assured RSF, and promised to set up joint initiatives with national organisations to protect journalists. The Prime Minister called for a police investigation the day after the bodies were discovered.

This is not the first time members of the station's staff have been murdered - according to Al-Sharqiya, 12 employees have been killed since 2004.

The TV crew's murders came amid a wave of violence in northern Iraq, with around 20 people killed in bombings on 13 September alone, says RSF. According to CPJ, at least 135 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- RSF:
- International Federation of Journalists:
- "Los Angeles Times":
(17 September 2008)

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