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IFJ condemns growing levels of violence against journalists

(IFJ/IFEX) - 17 May 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists today warned that violence against journalists in Iraq is once again on the rise and has called for an investigation into two deaths of Iraqi journalists.

Iraqi Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman was kidnapped on 4 May and found dead two days later in the city of Mosul. His murder is linked to reporting critical of figures in the Kurdish Regional Government. Last week another journalist, Raheem Al-Shamry, died in an explosion in Al-Hella city.

"These shocking events are a throw back to the darkest days for journalism and democracy in Iraq," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "We must not allow the situation to deteriorate further and we urge the authorities to vigorously pursue those responsible and bring them to justice."

According to media reports, Osman, who was a final year English language student and wrote for Ashtiname newspaper in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, was abducted by unidentified gunmen who bundled him in the car and drove away. Reports quoted family sources as saying that he had received death threats following the publication of an article in which he criticised a senior Kurdish politician.

His murder shocked the media community, which has enjoyed a period of relative calm after years of enduring violent attacks. The killing of Raheem Al-Shamry, a journalist with Al-Fath newspaper, added further concern. He died in an explosion at a factory in Al-Hella city which also injured three other reporters.

The IFJ says these attacks have revived the memories of violence against journalists during the Iraq war and subsequent sectarian conflict, which have claimed over 250 lives of journalists and media personnel since 2003.

"The fragile revival of professional journalism is at risk from ruthless and powerful forces with much to lose in an open and progressive society," added White. "It is time to stand up for democratic values, underpinned by a free and safe press."

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