Two journalists killed and ten injured in October

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Iraq continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), two journalists were killed in the country in October alone. On 21st October, TV reporter Ahmed Hajer Oglu was shot by a Daesh sniper in Kirkuk. The following day, Ali Raysan, a 33-year-old cameraman with Iraq’s Al-Sumaria TV, was killed by a Daesh sniper while filming clashes near Al-Shura, a village in the Al-Qaraya region south of Mosul. According to a release by local NGO Metro Centre for Journalists Rights and Advocacy, 10 journalists were also wounded while covering the offensive in northern Iraq.

The killings were condemned by Alexandra El Khazen, head of RSF for the Middle East:

“In view of the dangers of journalism in a war zone, especially in Iraq, we remind all parties to the conflict that they are required by the Geneva Conventions and its additional protocols to protect journalists. At the same time, journalists covering the conflict should also take care not to endanger either their sources or the conflict’s participants.”

Impunity for crimes against journalists typically prevails in Iraq, as shown in the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)'s latest edition of the Global Impunity Index, released on 2nd November. In the Index, Iraq is ranked second in the world in terms of the number of unsolved murders of journalists per capita.

On 2nd November, which is International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, UNESCO, the Maharat Foundation and the Gulf Center for Human Rights held a commemorative event in Beirut entitled 'No to impunity for Crimes Against Journalists in the Arab Region.' The event featured press interviews and a photo exhibition to highlight cases of murdered or kidnapped journalists in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon over the past year. Iraq has consistently been among the countries with the worst environments for journalism since the commemoration was established in 2013.

In view of the dangers faced by journalists in Iraq, a meeting supported by the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) brought together 15 senior officials from government, the Council of Representatives and representatives of Iraqi media workers to discuss information-sharing and reporting by Iraq on the safety of journalists. The meeting was co-chaired by Dr. Hamid Khalef from the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council (PMAC) and UNESCO Officer-in-Charge for Iraq, Ms. Louise Haxthausen.

RSF also reported that the state-owned Iraqi media network has established a national media network with the aim of ensuring national support for the offensive in Mosul, and that the Public Prosecutor’s office in Kurdistan banned three other TV channels from providing live coverage from any of the frontlines.

Additionally, Amnesty International was subjected to severe public criticism by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi following the publication of a series of reports on unlawful killings in Mosul. According to the Middle East Monitor, on 10th November the Iraqi Prime Minister stated that he held Amnesty International responsible for “endangering the security” of Mosul’s citizens by publishing “false information” regarding his forces conducting unlawful killings in areas near the city:

“The truth is that local residents killed Daesh militants, and we hold [Amnesty] responsible for any exodus of refugees because these reports make citizens fearful [...] We also hold them responsible for any security risks faced by citizens.”