Reporters Without Borders and the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), its partner organization in Iraq, strongly condemns the threat of a wave of Al-Qaeda bombings against news media that has just been reported by the Iraqi interior ministry.
Asking not to be named, a ministry official said on 30 November that Al-Qaeda was planning a campaign of car-bombings against ministries, universities, institutes and news media including the Al-Iraqiya, Al-Farat and Al-Soumariya television stations and the newspaper Al-Sabah.
The information is based on confessions reportedly made by a dozen Al-Qaeda members who were arrested in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Mansour on 27 November and who are said to have acknowledged responsibility for many attacks including the hostage-taking in the Christian church of Sayidat al-Najat in Baghdad on 31 October.
The interior ministry has announced the creation of a Protection Committee headed by interior minister Jawad Al-Bolani that is tasked with protecting all of the potential targets.
Reporters Without Borders and JFO appeal to the leaders of Al-Qaeda and its allies in Iraq to immediately call off any plans to attack public institutions and news media and to stop targeting civilians, including journalists.
The two organizations remind Al-Qaeda of the 600-page fatwa issued by the Pakistani Muslim scholar Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri in March 2010 in which he described the perpetrators and instigators of suicide bombings as the enemies of Islam. “There is no place for the martyr in Islam,” he said.
“They cannot claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim Umma [Islamic community],” Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri wrote. “No, they become the heroes of hellfire (...) their acts are never, ever to be considered jihad [holy struggle].”
Journalists have to cover official events at first hand but that does not mean that they support particular politicians or public figures. They are liable to fall victim to suicide bombings which, by targeting public buildings and large gatherings, aim to take as many innocent lives as possible. This is not acceptable.
Reporters Without Borders and JFO also condemn an attempt to murder the well-known TV presenter Nahed Najeeb in Kirkuk, 200 km north of Baghdad, on 27 November. Gunmen opened fire on his home at about 10 a.m. but Najeeb, who is of Turkmen origin, was not hit. Their identity and motives are still unknown but initial indications point to a link with disputes between different ethnic groups in Kirkuk.
A famous radio presenter and then TV anchor during Saddam Hussein’s time, Najeeb has been based in Kirkuk since 2003. He initially worked for the Turkmen TV station Turkmen Illi but was forced to resign. He now works as the news director of the satellite TV station Al-Sharqiya, which has its headquarters in Dubai and Amman.
Here is list of targeted attacks on journalists in Iraq in 2010, starting with the latest:
- Mazen Mardan Al-Baghdadi, a presenter on local satellite TV station Al-Mousiliya, was gunned down in Mosul on 21 November.
- Tahrir Kadhem Jawad, a cameraman employed by the U.S. Arabic-language TV station Al-Hurra, was killed by a bomb in Jasr Al-Korma, in east Fallujah, as he was about to leave for work on 4 October. The bomb had been placed underneath his car.
- Alaa Mohsen, the host of the programme “Liqa Sakhen” on state-run satellite TV station Al-Iraqiya, was badly injured by a bomb placed underneath his car as he was about to leave his home in Biyaa, in the Baghdad suburb of Saydiya, to go to work in Baghdad on the morning of 27 September.
- Safaa Al-Dine Abdul Hameed, the presenter of the Al-Mousiliya programme “Our Mosques,” was gunned down outside his home in Mosul as he was leaving for work on 8 September.
- Al-Iraqiya TV news presenter Riyad As-Saray was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was leaving his Baghdad home on 7 September.
- The body of Kamal Qassim Mohamed, the deputy editor of the magazine Al-Mustaqila, was found in Baghdad on 24 August, six days after his abduction by gunmen. He had been shot.
- A car-bomb explosion badly damaged satellite TV news station Al-Arabiya’s bureau in the central Baghdad district of Harithya on 26 July, following a series of threats of attacks on the station by terrorist networks.
- The body of journalist Sardasht Osman was found in Mosul on 6 May, two days after he was kidnapped outside the language department of Salahadin University in the nearby city of Erbil.
- Omar Ibrahim Al-Jabouri, the satellite TV station Al-Rasheed’s head of public relations, lost both of his legs in a targeted car-bombing in Micanic, in the south Baghdad suburb of Doura, on 13 April.
- Munir Assa’d, Al-Hurra TV’s Mosul correspondent, escaped a murder attempt when gunmen threw a grenade at him in Mosul on the morning of 5 April. Assa’d also represents a press freedom organisation in Ninawa, the region of which Mosul is the capital.
- An explosion outside the Iranian embassy in Baghdad on 4 April seriously damaged the offices of the Iraqi journalists union and the satellite TV station Al-Diyar, and injured three journalists.
- Three journalists – Baghdad TV correspondent Moataz Al-Mashhadani, cameraman Akram Abbas and Al-Hurra TV cameraman Haidar Mohamed – were injured in a double bombing on 29 March in Karbala. They had just arrived at the scene of the first explosion when a second bomb went off. Al-Mashhadani was hospitalised in Karbala with serious injuries.
- Muayad Al-Lami, the head of the Iraqi Union of Journalists, was the target of a murder attempt on 21 March in Baghdad.
- Maytham Al-Ahmed, the manager of radio Sindibad and editor of the independent weekly Al-Amani, was the target of a murder attempt in Basra on 17 March.