Tuesday and Wednesday saw the murders of two Iraqi reporters, adding to the approximately 230 media workers who have been killed in Iraq since 2003.
Riad al-Saray, a leading television presenter for al-Iraqiya TV, and a member of Baghdad’s provincial council, was shot dead, on Tuesday, by unidentified gunmen, as he was leaving his home in Baghdad. Safaa Abdul-Hameed, a correspondent for the local television station, al-Mousiliya, was killed near his home, on Wednesday, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Al-Saray was known for his attempts to narrow the differences between his own Shia community, and the Sunnis, in Iraq.
The British embassy was amongst those condemning the killings, saying, “A free and courageous press is an essential component of democracy. We support journalists in Iraq and encourage ethical and independent reporting. We assure them of our continuous support in the face of violence and intimidation.”
The journalists are the latest in a long line of media professionals to be killed since the fall of Saddam Hussein. In 2006, Atwar Bahjat was killed, along with two of her crew members, after they were kidnapped in Samarra, whilst reporting on the bombing of a local shrine. The kidnapping occurred in broad daylight, and in full view of the crowds looking at the aftermath of the bombing. She was one of the few Arab women reporting on the frontline, and had worked for the two biggest Arab news networks, al-Jazeera, and al-Arabiya.
Although the vast majority of killings have been committed by armed groups fighting the coalition forces and their Iraqi partners, the coalition themselves were responsible for approximately 9% of journalist deaths. The now famous Wikileaks video appears to show an American Apache helicopter destroying a van that was about to take an injured Reuters cameraman, Namir Noor ad-Deen, to hospital. The cameraman, and his assistant, died as a result.
Foreign journalists have also not been exempt. Evidence points to British ITN journalist Terry Lloyd having been killed by US forces. Taras Protsyuk, a Reuters cameraman, and Jose Couso, a cameraman with Telecino, were killed after American shellfire hit the Hotel Palestine during the invasion of Iraq, the very place where the international press were staying.
Press freedom has also not reached desired levels, with stations being intermittently banned, and journalists harassed.
Reporters Without Borders released a report on Tuesday, assessing the deaths of media workers in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War. “The Iraq War: A Heavy Death Toll for the Media,” is the third report they have released since the invasion of Iraq, and can be read here.
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