Journalists Still At Risk in Iraq - 12.22.2008

Just over a year ago, Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi, a journalist and correspondent for Alive in Baghdad, received a knock at his door. It was just after 11:30 at night, outside Ali was greeted with an Iraqi National Guard convoy. Hearing gunshots, Ali’s neighbors frantically tried to reach him by phone, to no avail. When his cousin Amar finally arrived a few hours later, Ali was dead, shot to death in his own living room.

Horace Greeley once wrote that “journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.” No one understands this twisted fate more than the journalists of Iraq. From Saddam’s police state through the American invasion and occupation all the way through the darkest days of the civil war, Iraqi journalists have endured all manner of peril and treachery in their quest to deliver truth to the people, and in some cases, truth from the people.

After Saddam took control of Iraq in 1979, journalists lost all freedom to express their own views. Saddam’s Ba’ath party dominated all media - radio, newspapers, television, everything. Behind his long winded speeches on personal hygiene and endless slide shows of exotic flowers, Saddam ruthlessly persecuted any journalist he suspected of treason. Many were imprisoned, tortured or executed. Even after Saddam’s deposing in 2003 however, journalists in Iraq still found themselves on the wrong side of the powers that be.

During the American invasion, coalition forces are alleged to have had an unofficial policy of targeting journalists who were unwilling or unable to report from Iraq exclusively through it’s system of “embedded” reporters. While the US military viewed the process of embedding as simply one means of controlling battlefield information, many journalists questioned the ethics of siding so closely with one source, some even calling it propaganda. The response from coalition forces was not kind. Occupation forces weren’t the only threat they faced however. With the invasion came the civil war, and journalists were exposed to yet new terrors.

Though print and radio journalists were sometimes able to operate in relative anonymity, journalists in the booming satellite television news industry found themselves vulnerable to all manner of militant and criminal groups in Iraq. With their faces broadcast directly into the homes of millions of Iraqis, they quickly became a favored and convenient target for even the most unsophisticated militants in Iraq. Even without the exposure of satellite television Iraqi journalists still found little shelter from the violent chaos of the civil war. Ali is one such case.

On this first anniversary of our brave correspondent Ali Shafeya Al-Moussawi’s passing, we offer you this week’s episode in his memory. Hear the tales of just a handful of the Iraqi journalists fighting every day to report the truth from Baghdad, and in some cases, fighting just to stay alive in Baghdad.

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