Attempts on lives of Iraqi Kurd reporters

Two Kurdish journalists critical of Iraqi Kurdistan’s government escaped murder attempts in the autonomous region and must be protected by authorities, Reporters Without Borders said Friday.

It said that in two separate incidents this week, gunmen in vehicles had opened fire on Hangaw Hashem, a reporter for the weekly Rojname and on Barqi Islam, who works for the Speda satellite channel.

The attack on Hashem in the Kurdish capital of Arbil on Wednesday came one day after the attack on Islam in the Dohuk province of Kurdistan.

Both men were driving their vehicles during the attacks, and escaped unhurt, according to the Paris-based press freedom watchdog.

Reporters Without Borders adds that several journalists who have covered anti-government demonstrations or who have written stories critical of the government of regional president Massud Barzani, have faced harassment ranging from detention to death threats.

“We are extremely worried by the armed attacks and acts of intimidation deliberately targeting journalists,” said Reporters Without Borders.

“The authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan must accept they have a duty to protect journalists and protect their right to work freely.”

Anwar Hussein, head of the Journalists’ Rights Defence Committee in Kurdistan, told AFP that attacks against journalists had increased since around mid-February.

“We have received many complaints from journalists, and have registered them with the authorities,” he said. “We have registered 150 complaints since the beginning of demonstrations in Kurdistan” in mid-February, he added.

Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party in January said it was withdrawing all court cases filed against journalists, after media rights groups and Kurdish media organisations said they had been hit by a barrage of lawsuits from political parties and politicians, especially from the KDP.

Journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan have complained of many hazards in connection with their work.

Last May, 22-year-old journalist Sardasht Osman was found dead with a single bullet to the head, a day after he was kidnapped.

Osman had written scathing articles about the alleged corruption of Kurdish leaders, especially Barzani.

An official probe that claimed Osman was in fact a member of a militant group was slammed by press groups and his family, who said they were convinced the reporter was killed because of his work.

Baghdad – AFP

March 25, 2011

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