Press Advocacy Group Condemns Latest Attacks on Journalists in Iraq

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An international press advocacy group condemned the slaying of a well-known Iraqi journalist and the car bombing of a Sunni-owned television station that killed the assistant director, calling the killings “heinous” murders.

Thaer Ahmed, assistant director of Baghdad TV, was killed Thursday when a car bomb struck the television offices in Jami’a, in west Baghad. Twelve people were wounded.

Also Thursday, police in west Baghdad found the bullet-riddled body of Khamail Muhsin, a famous television presenter during Saddam Hussein’s rule. She was kidnapped two days ago.

“We offer our condolences to the family of our colleague Khamail,” said Joel Simon, Executive Director of the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists. “Her senseless murder serves as a reminder of the unprecedented dangers of practising journalism in Iraq.”

CPJ said Muhsin had reported on social and cultural life in Iraq for the U.S.-funded Radio Free Iraq since 2004.

“We are saddened and horrified by this heinous attack on Baghdad TV which claimed the life of our colleague and friend Thaer Ahmad Jaber and critically injured several others,” Simon said.

“We extend our condolences to Jaber’s family and while acknowledging the chaos and lawlessness that has engulfed Iraq, we fervently hope that one day there will be justice,” he added.

CPJ said Baghdad TV has lost four other employees since June 2005, two of them were killed by U.S. forces in crossfire. On March 7, 2006, Munsuf Abdallah al-Khaldi, a presenter for the channel, was murdered by insurgents. Ahmed Riyadh al-Karbouli, a correspondent for Baghdad TV, was gunned down on September 18, 2006. It said that many other employees have received death threats.

At least 99 journalists, including Muhsin, Jaber, and 37 media support staffers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, making Iraq the deadliest conflict for the press in recent history. Insurgents are responsible for the bulk of media deaths. More than 80 per cent of all media deaths have been Iraqis working for local and international news outlets.

In a separate development, Othman al-Mashhadani, a reporter for the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan, was abducted in western Baghdad’s Shulah neighbourhood on his way home from work Wednesday, CPJ said.

His abductors called his family hours later demanding ransom. Al-Mashhadani had been threatened before, CPJ said.

According to CPJ research, at least 48 journalists, including al-Mashhadani, have been abducted since 2004.

Marwan Ghazal and Reem Zaeed, abducted on February 1, 2006, and Bilal Taleb Abdul-Rahman al-Obeidi, kidnapped August 14, 2006, are still missing, it said.

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