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Death threats followed by shooting attacks on journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - 25 March 2011 - Two Kurdish opposition journalists have escaped murder attempts in the past three days in Erbil and Dohuk, places controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, while other journalists have been briefly detained or have been the target of a kidnapping attempt. Many report that they are continuing to receive death threats by SMS.

"We are extremely worried by the armed attacks and acts of intimidation deliberately targeting journalists, especially as two were already murdered in 2008 and 2009," Reporters Without Borders said. "The authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan must accept they have a duty to protect journalists and protect their right to work freely."

The press freedom organization added: "At the same time, the leaders of the two main political parties controlling the region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), must appeal for calm and give clear directives to their supporters."

Hangaw Hashm, a reporter for Rojname, a weekly that supports the opposition party Gorran, was driving out of the Majidi Mall shopping centre in Erbil on 23 March when gunmen in a vehicle with tinted windows opened fire on his car. None of the shots hit him.

Barqi Islam, a reporter for the satellite TV station Speda in Amedi (in Dohuk province), was attacked while returning home from the Newroz festivities on 22 March. Gunmen in a vehicle opened fire on his car, which was hit many times, but Islam himself was not hit.

Reporter Hazhar Anwar and cameraman Amir Abubakar of Kurdistan News Network (KNN) were detained by KDP and PUK Asayesh (intelligence agents) on 22 March while covering a demonstration by relatives of people who were killed or disappeared during the civil war. The Asayesh stopped their filming, held them for nearly two hours and erased their memory cards.

KNN reporter Aram Najim and cameraman Hana Sidig were harassed by PUK Asayesh while covering a demonstration against the PUK and KDP the same day in Hallabja.

Poet and independent journalist Rabar Fariq has reported being under surveillance by KDP security forces after writing a column for the 17 March issue of Rojname in which he openly criticized the KDP and its determination to prevent Erbil's inhabitants from protesting.

Kawa Ahmed, a journalist with the daily Awene, was attacked on 9 March because of his articles. KNN reporter Garmiyani Hamay Pur was detained for two hours the same day. Payam TV journalist Mustafa Abdulla was also attacked and his camera was confiscated. All three said they were threatened.

Speda, a satellite TV station operated by the opposition Kurdistan Islamic Union, told Reporters Without Borders that its crews had been the target of 12 media freedom violations since 25 February. In one case, Sarkawt Salam, a Speda reporter based in Kalar, was briefly kidnapped on 9 March. He was forced to get into a car and was released at Sayid Khalil, 5 km away. In another case, Speda cameraman Sangar Hamid and reporter As'ad Muhammad were attacked and beaten by PUK Asayesh on 3 March and were told they would be killed if they continued to cover demonstrations.

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