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Several journalists attacked during student demonstration, others arrested or threatened

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the continuing wave of press freedom violations in Iraq and reiterates its appeal to the Iraqi parliament to pass a law protecting journalists.

"Many journalists and media have been the target of physical attacks or lawsuits since the 7 March parliamentary elections," Reporters Without Borders said. "The threats come from both the security forces and public figures. The context yet again shows the urgent need for the Iraqi parliament to begin examining the draft law on the protection of journalists that has repeatedly been postponed since September 2009."

In the latest incident, at least eight Kurdish journalists were physically attacked by police when they went to cover a student demonstration outside the department of education building in Sulaymaniyah (in Iraqi Kurdistan) on 17 April 2010. Those assaulted included photographer Safin Ismail of the newspaper "Aso", reporter Warya Hussein of satellite TV station Biyam, reporter Kamal Nouri of the TV station Sahar, cameraman Sroucht Sazan and reporter Sahnad Saleh of the TV station Kadhi and reporter Didin Majid of satellite TV station Sabida. Three cameras were seized and destroyed.

Ahmed Al-Hamadani, the correspondent of the pan-Arab satellite TV station Al-Arabiya, was arrested on 15 April in the Kurdish city of Kirkuk after getting into an argument with a policeman. He was released a few hours later.

Members of the security forces arrested Saad Al-Awsi, the editor of the weekly "Al-Shahid", at his home in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Al-Karkh on the morning of 14 April, taking him away to an unknown place of detention after carrying out a search and confiscating a computer. His arrest was prompted by an article criticising the compromises that Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki allegedly made to get his job.

Al-Awsi's parents went to the Al-Karkh directorate of operations the same day seeking information but officials there denied any knowledge of the arrest, which came just over two months after the security forces searched the weekly's office on 5 February and confiscated computers.

Ahmed Ismail Ali Al-Sa'di, a former reporter for Al-Iraqiya TV who now works in Denmark for Shabakat Al-I'lam Al-Iraqi, said he was threatened by the Iraqi government with reprisals if he returns to Iraq.

Several journalists were roughed up by members of the embassy protection force while accompanying interior minister Jawad Al-Boulani on an inspection of embassy security on 11 April following the 4 April bombing targeting the Iranian embassy. The journalists were barred from entering the embassies and were manhandled despite being part of the delegation. The minister expressed his support for the journalists.
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