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News media targeted by Al-Qaeda and other terror groups

(RSF/IFEX) - 2 December 2010 - Reporters Without Borders and the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), its partner organization in Iraq, strongly condemns the threat of a wave of Al-Qaeda bombings against news media that has just been reported by the Iraqi interior ministry.

Asking not to be named, a ministry official said on 30 November that Al-Qaeda was planning a campaign of car-bombings against ministries, universities, institutes and news media including the Al-Iraqiya, Al-Farat and Al-Soumariya television stations and the newspaper Al-Sabah.

The information is based on confessions reportedly made by a dozen Al-Qaeda members who were arrested in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Mansour on 27 November and who are said to have acknowledged responsibility for many attacks including the hostage-taking in the Christian church of Sayidat al-Najat in Baghdad on 31 October.

The interior ministry has announced the creation of a Protection Committee headed by interior minister Jawad Al-Bolani that is tasked with protecting all of the potential targets.

Reporters Without Borders and JFO appeal to the leaders of Al-Qaeda and its allies in Iraq to immediately call off any plans to attack public institutions and news media and to stop targeting civilians, including journalists.

The two organizations remind Al-Qaeda of the 600-page fatwa issued by the Pakistani Muslim scholar Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri in March 2010 in which he described the perpetrators and instigators of suicide bombings as the enemies of Islam. "There is no place for the martyr in Islam," he said.

"They cannot claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim Umma [Islamic community]," Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri wrote. "No, they become the heroes of hellfire (. . .) their acts are never, ever to be considered jihad [holy struggle]."

Journalists have to cover official events first hand but that does not mean that they support particular politicians or public figures. They are liable to fall victim to suicide bombings which, by targeting public buildings and large gatherings, aim to take as many innocent lives as possible. This is not acceptable.

Reporters Without Borders and JFO also condemn an attempt to murder the well-known TV presenter Nahed Najeeb in Kirkuk, 200 km north of Baghdad, on 27 November. Gunmen opened fire on his home at about 10 a.m. but Najeeb, who is of Turkmen origin, was not hit. Their identity and motives are still unknown but initial indications point to a link with disputes between different ethnic groups in Kirkuk.

A famous radio presenter and then TV anchor during Saddam Hussein's time, Najeeb has been based in Kirkuk since 2003. He initially worked for the Turkmen TV station Turkmen Illi but was forced to resign. He now works as the news director of the satellite TV station Al-Sharqiya, which has its headquarters in Dubai and Amman.

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