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Iraq: Watchdog urges task force as journalist death toll climbs

BBC Monitoring

Text of press release by Paris-based organization Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) on 31 May

    Reporters Without Borders voiced deep shock today [31 May] at the murders of four Iraqi journalists by armed groups in the past five days. The body of a local TV station employee was found in the boot of his car in the northern city of Kirkuk on 26 May. A Turkmen journalist was killed in Kirkuk on 28 May. Gunmen burst into the home of a journalism teacher and contributor to several media in Amariyah, near Al-Fallujah, on 29 May, killing him and seven members of his family. A Shiite journalist was fatally shot yesterday in the southern town of Al-Amarah.

    "The Iraqi authorities must fulfil their duty to protect journalists," Reporters Without Borders said. "We call for the creation of a special force within the national police to identify the perpetrators and instigators of killings of journalists and to organize awareness campaigns about the protection of journalists for all the Iraqi security forces and for the public. To help the investigators, a witness protection programme should also be set up with the help of countries in the region."

    Police said the body of Aidan Abdallah Al-Jamiji, who was in charge of Kirkuk television's Turkmen-language section and who was also a well-known local musician, was found on 26 May in the boot of his car, which been torched and dumped near the cemetery of Kirkuk, 250 km north of Baghdad.

    Mahmud Hassib Al-Kassab, the editor of the weekly Al-Hawadith and a member of Inkad Al-Turkman (the Turkmen Salvation Movement), was gunned down outside his home in the northern part of Kirkuk on 28 May. A local newspaper said he had been injured six weeks ago when a hand grenade was thrown at him in an apparent murder attempt,

    Abdel-Rahman Al-Issawi (photo), 34, a journalism professor at Baghdad university and contributor to several newspapers, was killed along with seven members of his family (including his wife, son, father and mother) when gunmen stormed into his home in Amariyah, near Al-Fallujah, on 29 May and opened fire.

    Nizar Al-Radhi (photo), 38, an employee of the independent news agency Aswat Al-Irak (Voices of Iraq) and correspondent since last year for Radio Free Iraq, was fatally shot and several of his colleagues were wounded when three gunmen in a pickup yesterday opened fire on a group of journalist who had gone to a news conference outside the city hall of Al-Amarah (365 km south of Baghdad).

    In the Philippines, where six journalists were killed last year, the authorities have created a task force to handle crimes of violence against members of the news media. This specialized unit establishes a relationship with the families of the victims and protects people who come forward as witnesses.

    Source: Reporters Sans Frontieres press release, Paris, in English 31 May 07

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