Hundreds of Iraqi Journalists Forced Into Exile

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Hundreds of Iraqi journalists have been forced into exile since the war started five years ago, Reporters without Borders announced in a report released Wednesday.

Most fled to Jordan or Syria after receiving threats or surviving murder attempts, according to the Paris-based advocacy group.

“These journalists are safe again after escaping the hell of Iraq, the world?s deadliest country for the media,” the press freedom organization said. “But exile does not mean the end of their problems.”

It said the first-ever detailed report on the plight of Iraqi journalists forced into exile found that most are unemployed and many had to give up their trade.

“All or nearly all of them are living from hand to mouth, alone or with their families,” the group said after interviewing many of those who fled.

The report found that Iraqi journalists face the unique danger of being targeted by multiple groups _ Sunni and Shiite militias, al-Qaida in Iraq, the police and other authorities and U.S.-led forces.

It singled out an Iraqi correspondent for the Spanish news agency EFE who fled with his wife and two children after seeing his name among a list on a poster at his local bakery in an al-Qaida-controlled neighborhood of Baghdad.

A veteran cameraman, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, said he moved to Syria after learning that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr?s Mahdi Army militia was asking questions about him in Baghdad.

Another journalist, Hussein al-Maadidi, left in October after purportedly incurring the wrath of the Iraqi authorities and U.S. military with his reports about the killings of civilians by U.S. Marines in the Anbar province city of Haditha in November 2005.

“The police searched my home 23 times,” he was quoted as saying. “I never went home during the last two years. I even worked under another name to avoid police reprisals.”

The group noted that Syria and Jordan have been overwhelmed with refugees from neighboring Iraq and urged countries in Europe, North America and the rest of the Arab world to do more to share the load and to “urgently adopt policies to make this possible.”

A total of 210 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion began on March 20, 2003, according to the group.

The fate of 15 journalists who have been kidnapped, including one Briton, is not known, the report said.

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