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Iraq 3rd in world for unpunished journalist killings: CPJ

Impunity against journalists runs rife in Iraq, which has placed third in an index investigating unpunished journalist killings by the the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Iraq came third only to Somalia and Syria in the 2020 index published on Wednesday, which documents retaliatory media killings where killers roam free.

“Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and South Sudan occupy the worst four spots on the list, in that order, as war and political instability perpetuate the cycle of violence and lawlessness,” the organisation said.

A total of 21 unsolved murders were recorded  in Iraq between September 2010 and September 2020, including the killing of cameraman Safaa Ghali, shot dead with Diljah reporter Ahmed Abdul Samad whilst covering protests in the southern port city of Basra last year.

Paramilitary groups are suspected to be behind Ghali’s death, according to the CPJ.

“Incremental progress toward reducing the murders of journalists worldwide is fragile and could be thwarted by legal appeals and lack of political leadership,” the CPJ said.

Four journalists and two media assistants have been killed in Iraq this year, according to Reporters without Borders.

Journalists across Iraq have been targeted since the outbreak of Iraq’s protest movement in October 2019 across central and southern parts of the country.  Scores have been arrested, kidnapped and shot dead since the demonstrations began.

Most at risk are those critical of Iran-backed factions accused of killing protesters and attacking foreign missions and troops across the country.

Yussef Sattar, a journalist and activist was killed during protests in Baghdad in January.

An arrest warrant was issued for journalist Suadad al-Salhy on October 22 over a libel lawsuit after she published an exclusive report claiming that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was behind Iraqi armed factions deciding to halt their attacks on US interests.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has vowed on multiple occasions to bring to justice the killers of protesters to justice, but little has been done.

“Incremental progress toward reducing the murders of journalists worldwide is fragile and could be thwarted by legal appeals and lack of political leadership,” the CPJ said.

Journalists in the Kurdistan Region are also at risk of arrest, imprisonment and death.

Kurdistan TV cameraman Arkan Sharifi was stabbed to death by masked men in the aftermath of the Kurdistan Region independence referendum in October 2017.

Journalist Guhdar Zebari was arrested in Akre this week and taken to an unknown location after receiving threatening messages, the CPJ reported. Source