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IFJ condemns impunity as suicide strike on Al-Arabiya satellite channel kills six

(IFJ/IFEX) - 26 July 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad on the Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya in which four employees and two members of the public were killed.

The Federation says journalists remain prime targets for terrorists in Iraq and the government must act now to counter impunity in the killings of journalists.

The suicide bomber blew up a vehicle at around 9.30am local time in front of the station's bureau in Baghdad's city centre, leaving a massive crater. Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said three guards and a cleaning woman were killed in the blast that left another 10 injured.

"This attack comes after clear threats from terrorists that they intend to target media," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is a shocking incident that reinforces the concern over the dangers faced by journalists and media. More must be done to ensure the safety of all media personnel."

The attack occurred a month after officials warned that insurgents opposed to the channel, which is funded from Saudi Arabia, planned to strike against the network.

"This attack is a further challenge to the authorities," said White. "Previous killings of journalists have not been investigated or have been dealt with casually, creating an intolerable regime of impunity. The government must change its approach and ensure that the killers of journalists and media staff will be brought to justice."

This is the latest in a series of attacks on Al-Arabiya. In September 2008, its Baghdad bureau chief, Jawad Hattab, escaped unharmed after spotting a bomb, which would-be assassins had attached to his car, before it was detonated by remote control.

In October 2006, a car bomb targeting the channel's then bureau killed seven people and wounded 20. And in February 2006, Al-Arabiya presenter Atwar Bahjat and two colleagues were kidnapped and murdered in Samarra north of Baghdad over coverage of the bombing of a Shiite shrine, an attack by al-Qaeda that sparked a new round of sectarian bloodshed.

"This attack puts a media perspective on the recent falling levels of violence against civilians," said Aidan White. "For all journalists and media staff, the dangers in reporting Iraq's tense political situation remain as great as ever."
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