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Resurgence of violence against journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - There have been two incidents since the start of the withdrawal of US forces from the main Iraqi cities two weeks ago that could indicate a worsening in the environment for the Iraqi media. Reporters Without Borders fears a resurgence of threats and violence against journalists not only by armed groups, but also the police and other law enforcement personnel.

"Iraqi security forces working with Sahwa militias seem to be taking advantage of the withdrawal of the US forces to physically target journalists," Reporters Without Borders said. "The Iraqi authorities must do what is necessary to put a stop to this and to ensure that there are independent investigations into these two recent incidents."

Three reporters - Ali Al-Juburi of the satellite TV station Ifaq, Ahmad Omad of Biladi TV and Karim Al-Qasimi of the newspaper "Al Fiha" - were physically attacked and held for five hours in Babil province, near Ramadi (about 120 km west of Baghdad), while returning from covering a visit by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to the region on 8 July 2009.

They were travelling together in a car marked "Press" that was stopped by Sahwa militiamen and Iraqi policemen working together. During the search of their car, they were insulted and physically attacked by a policeman, Juburi said. When they tried to file a complaint against the policeman, they were detained for five hours at a police station by his nephew.

Journalists based in Babil province subsequently staged a demonstration in protest against the violence to which their colleagues had been subjected.

In the other incident, reporter Haydar Al-Qotbi of US-funded Radio Sawa was attacked by Sahwa militiamen on 10 July near Kashafa stadium in the Baghdad district of Kasra, where he had gone to cover an accident. When the militiamen stopped his car, he showed them his press ID and one of them insulted him for working for a US news media outlet. He was then dragged from the car and badly beaten by six men.

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