Security Remains Top Risk for Iraqi Journalists

By Laith Hammoudi.

This article was originally published by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, iwpr.net, and it is reproduced by Iraq Business News with permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Jinan Hussein decided to miss the United Nations conference rather than have her brand new iPhone confiscated by a sentry outside the Green Zone in central Baghdad.

“I wanted to make a call to the UN official who’d invited me to attend a United Nations conference, because the soldier on the gate wouldn’t allow me in as I didn’t have a Green Zone badge and there was no one to escort me,” said Hussein, who works for Al Jazeera English TV. “The soldier threatened to confiscate my phone, saying it wasn’t allowed to make calls in that area. He told me to take out the SIM card and hand him the phone, but I refused.”

Hussein told IWPR that the rigorous security procedures imposed on Iraqi reporters going about their normal business were unreasonable – they obstructed the practice of journalism while doing nothing to improve security.

Since the US-led invasion of 2003, journalists have been attacked by both insurgents and government forces. Dozens of Iraqi and foreign reporters have been killed, kidnapped or disappeared without trace.

The dangerous and volatile environment makes Hasan al-Darraji, a correspondent for the Furat satellite TV channel, more forgiving, even though he has missed many stories from being kept waiting at checkpoints.

“I can’t blame the security forces for anything they do; I can’t complain, because I know how big their responsibility is,” he said. “About a month ago, I was on my way to cover an explosion in Sadr City [part of Baghdad], and I had to wait for over an hour at the checkpoint waiting for permission to access the site of the blast. That was despite showing the soldiers all the requisite permits issued by Baghdad Operational Command.”

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