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British journalist found dead in Istanbul airport

Hassan al-Ghezzi / Institute for War & Peace Reporting

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 20 October 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today backed the call of its affiliates in the United Kingdom & Ireland and Australia, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) respectively, for an independent investigation in the death of ex-BBC journalist and director of Institute of War and Peace Reporting in Iraq, Jacky Sutton, who was found dead last Saturday at Istanbul's airport.

According to media reports, Ms Sutton, 50, was found dead in the bathrooms at Istanbul's Ataturk airport on 17 October. She was coming from London and was supposed to take another flight to Erbil (northern Iraq). Local media reported that the cause was suicide. However, friends and family have questioned how local authorities were able to come to this conclusion so quickly.

The London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) Ms Sutton was working for in Iraq since June supports local journalism in countries affected by conflict and crisis. While working for the BBC, Ms Sutton became member of the NUJ until 2012.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, said: “Our thoughts go out to Jacky's family and friends at this sad time. It is clear that her death came as a shock to those that knew her best – it is vital that a thorough, independent and transparent inquiry into her death takes place in order to ascertain precisely what happened. Jacky will be much missed by the international community of journalists who knew her well and respected her work.”

The IFJ's affiliate in Australia, MEAA, also showed its concerns about the incident and asked for an investigation to clarify the "highly suspicious circumstances" of the former journalist's death.

In May, the previous director of the IWPR in Iraq, Ammar Al Shahbander, was killed in Baghdad in a car bomb attack. Ms Sutton had received death threats prior to her death, media added.

“We are saddened by the disappearance of British colleague and former member of the NUJ, Jacky Sutton,” said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. “Given that her predecessor at the IWPR in Iraq was killed and her upcoming trip to the country, we back our affiliates' call on the authorities for an international and fully transparent investigation into the circumstances of her death to be sure that it was in any case linked to her humanitarian engagement in Iraq."

Ms Sutton had worked in various aid development roles in the United Nations including in Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza, and was also a journalist for the BBC.

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