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Al-Forat TV cameraman killed by roadside bomb, reporter and assistant wounded; two TV crews roughed up by police

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is saddened by the death of Al-Forat TV cameraman Alaa Abdulkarim Al-Fartoosi, who was killed when his car was hit by a roadside bomb on 28 January 2008 on the road from Baghdad to Samarra. Al-Forat reporter Fatima Al-Hassina and their assistant, Haidar Kadhem, were wounded by the explosion.

In separate developments, two Dajla TV crews were roughed up by police on 29 January in Diyala province, northeast of the capital.

"It has not yet been established whether the car borrowed by the Al-Forat TV crew was deliberately targeted," Reporters Without Borders said. "Although they take enormous precautions, journalists risk their lives each time they venture into the field in Iraq. The increase in the number of US soldiers and Iraqi police has reduced the frequency of bombings in Baghdad but not in the rest of the country. We strongly condemn the violence by armed groups against civilians."

Fartoosi was killed instantly by the bomb that had been buried beside the road near the town of Al-Balad (75 km north of the capital). The Al-Forat crew had been on its way to Samarra to cover the second anniversary of the February 2006 bombing that destroyed the Shiite mausoleum of Imam Al-Hadi. Samarra has seen frequent clashes between Shiites and Sunnis during the past two years.

A satellite TV station, Al-Forat is the voice of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), a Shiite political party.

According to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, the Reporters Without Borders partner organisation in Iraq, the road from Baghdad to Samarra is one of the most dangerous in the country. It was on this road that Atwar Bahjat of Al-Arabiya TV and her crew were kidnapped and murdered in 2006 (see IFEX alert of 23 February 2006).

At least 208 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the start of the US invasion in March 2003.

Reporter Khaled Saleh and cameramen Laith Hamid of the Egypt-based satellite TV station Dajla were physically attacked on 29 January by a senior police officer in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province (60 km northeast of Baghdad), while covering a conference on national reconciliation at the prefecture's headquarters. The police officer did not want them to attend.

The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory reported that another Dajla crew, cameraman Adnan Khader and reporter Sawssan Al-Dulaymi, were beaten and briefly detained by police officers in Baladruz, a town 30 km outside Baquba, for filming police trying to get fuel from a service station without waiting in line.

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