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Reporter gunned down in southern town

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is saddened by the murder on 25 April 2008 of journalist Jassem Al-Battat, who was shot dead by gunmen in a market in Al-Qorna, a town 80 km north of the southern city of Basra. His death brings the number of journalists and media assistants killed in Iraq since March 2003 to 211.

Aged 38, Battat worked for Al-Nakhil, a radio and TV broadcasting group owned by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), a Shiite party that supports the government.

"The toll of victims of the fighting in Iraq continues to mount, especially for the news media," the press freedom organisation said. "Unfortunately, there is little hope that the Iraqi authorities will investigate this shooting and establish who was responsible. The impunity reigning in Iraq for the past five years encourages armed groups to keep attacking journalists, who have become easy targets."

Reporters Without Borders added: "As in other cases, Battat's murder may have been a message to the party that finances the radio and TV group he worked for."

A total of 157 journalists and 54 media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the start of the invasion by the US-led coalition in March 2003. Nothing is known of the fate of another 14 journalists and media assistants who were kidnapped.

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