Press ‘Under Attack’ in Iraq

The head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) in Iraq has condemned the violence that federal security forces inflicted upon a number of journalists covering the public demonstrations across the country on Friday, according to a report from AKnews.

Hadi Jallo Merei told the news agency that a large number of journalists were physically attacked by the Iraqi security forces while reporting the nationwide protests.

“Many journalists were injured in the head and their cameras were broken,” he said; “…even the correspondents of some satellite channels that were covering the event objectively were subjected to beatings, abuse and detention”.

Merei said that even if the demonstrations were considered by the federal forces as a violation or offense, the journalists were not a party to any violation as they were simply reporting the events and not participating in the protests.

”The attacks on journalists are totally unacceptable,” he said.

Among the reports of journalists being subjected to beatings by the security forces whilst covering the protests are the correspondent from the international news agency Reuters, Mushtaq Mohammed and the Masar TV anchor Karrar al-Tamimi.

“We received dozens of complaints about attacks that happened against journalists in different parts of Iraq,” Merei continued.

When asked about the charges being leveled at some satellite TV journalists that they were seeking to present a distorted anti-government view of Friday’s events, Merei said that he had received information “that some journalists received money from certain parties to incite violence” and condemned such behavior, deeming it inappropriate and unfit for the profession.

“The journalists who were inciting violence or engaged in it are not cut out for journalism and we don’t care about them,” he said.

Human Rights Watch has reportedly called on the Iraqi authorities to immediately investigate a raid by security forces on the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, and has demanded that the government ensure the speedy and safe return of all seized equipment and documents.

A guard at the JFO’s offices in Baghdad’s central commercial district Karrada said “at least 30 people, some wearing military uniforms and others dressed in black, came in security force vehicles at around 2:00 am … They broke into the office after breaking down the doors”.

The security forces conducted a destructive search of the office that lasted more than an hour and seized the organization’s computers, external hard drives, cameras, cell phones, CDs, documents, and several flak jackets and helmets marked “Press,” the witness said.

(Sources: AKnews, Trust.org, AFP)

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