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More attacks on journalists covering demonstrations, TV cameraman missing in Iraqi Kurdistan

(RSF/IFEX) - Dana Bakir, a cameraman working for Naliya Radio and Television (NRT), has been missing since 1 April 2011, when security forces attacked journalists who were covering a demonstration in Freedom Square (Saray Azadi) in Sulaymaniyah. NRT director-general Twana Othman said he regarded his cameraman's disappearance as a case of abduction.

Othman told Reporters Without Borders that, according to the latest information, his cameraman appeared to have been arrested and was currently in prison. "I asked if I could visit him but my requests were refused. Other people have told me he is in Sulaymaniyah's Kani Goma prison."

The Sulaymaniyah police deny having arrested Bakir.

"Lvin Magazine" journalist Jiyar Omer told Reporters Without Borders : "I was on the square taking photos of the security forces, police and Asayesh (intelligence services) attacking the demonstrators. Despite their warnings, I did not hide. At no point did I think they would target me until the moment when they tried to arrest me. Demonstrators came to my aid. Later, when I tried to take photos of the security forces firing on the crowd, they hit me in the stomach and back with the butts of their Kalashnikovs."

The demonstrations continued the next day in Sulaymaniyah, when journalists were again attacked by the security forces.

Goran Othman, who works for "Komal" (a weekly published by the Islamic Group in Kurdistan), said he and fellow journalist Hakar Muhammad were hit. Mohamed Jamal, another journalist working for "Komal", was also attacked and his camera was seized. Freelance photographer Zmnako Ismail was briefly detained. The home of Shirwan Muhammad Amin, the editor of http://www.judinews.com had his residence broken into and his computer and camera were taken. The website was also attacked.

Journalists who were covering a student demonstration outside the Department of Education in Erbil on 31 March were attacked by plainclothes members of the Asayesh while the police looked on without intervening. Kurdistan News Network TV reporter Mariwan Mala Hassan and cameraman Ahmed Younus were attacked and injured, and their equipment was damaged.

Halgurd Ahmed, the editor of the cultural magazine "Zinar", was seriously injured in a shooting attack at his home in Raniya (110 km southeast of Sulaymaniyah) on the evening of 28 March. "They prepared well," he told Reporters Without Borders. "They night before the attack, they disconnected the lamp that lights the entrance to my house. The next night, they shut the door behind me and opened fire. I was hit by four shots."

Ahmed is a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (one of the two parties that rule the region), but he maintains good relations with all the other parties. "Representatives of all the political parties came to visit me," he added. "They were all shocked. I don't know who did it. I don't want to accuse anyone." He added that he reported the attack to the police. Both the police and the Asayesh are investigating.

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