Journalists in Danger Despite Drop in Censorship - 02.23.2009

Journalism in Iraq is a deadly business. The Committee to Protect Journalism, an international NGO focusing on dangers for journalists worldwide, has repeatedly ranked Iraq as one of the deadliest countries for journalists to work in. Rayat al-Arab, an Iraqi newspaper associated with the Movement of Arab Nationalists, is no exception to these dangerous conditions.

In October 2006, Saed Mahdi Shlash, a journalist and administrator working for Rayat al-Arab, was murdered along with his wife. Gunmen entered his home in Baghdad’s western neighborhood of al-Aamariyeh and executed Shlash along with his wife. The CPJ has previously highlighted the neighborhood al-Aamariyeh as a focal point of insurgent activity targeting journalists.

In addition to militants and criminal gangs, journalists in Iraq are also alleged to have been targeted by the US military as well as their own government. On April 8, 2003, indepedent journalists reporting from Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel were attacked by US military units, killing cameraman Jose Couso of Telecinco and another photographer for Reuters, Taras Protsyuk. Though the US Department of Defense claimed they acted in “self-defense,” a report issued by Reporters Without Borders states that their investigations concluded “exactly the opposite” of the Pentagon’s statement.

All of these dangers combine to form a type of censorship for Iraqi journalists. While there haven’t been specific laws infringing on Iraqi freedom of speech since the fall of Saddam Hussein, journalists
are often intimidated by the steady stream of kidnappings, bombings and assassinations. Satellite news channels, the most popular media source in Iraq, are also monitored unofficially by the government and political parties trolling for criticism and unfriendly reporting. Newspapers and print media, for their part, are targeting much less by the government due to their low readership and distribution.

In this week’s episode of Alive in Baghdad, we bring you an interview with Hassan Fadhel Allah al-Hussaini, the editor of Rayat al-Arab newspaper in Baghdad. He offers us a personal perspective on the wide variety of dangers facing journalists in Iraq. At the same time he reminds us of these dangers, Hassan remains faithful.

“All Iraqis now are working by way of a miracle,” he tells us. “Everyone who walks in the street, every student who goes to school or university…all of them are working by a miracle, because death is pursuing them in every moment and place.”

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