ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Five international media rights organizations on Monday urged Iraq's prime minister and parliament to begin an immediate investigation into Friday's assassination of two Iraqi journalists who were covering ongoing national protests.
“These recent targeted killings of journalists show the deteriorating safety situation for those reporting on the recent social protests in Iraq,” read a joint statement by Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the International Federation of Journalists, International Media Support (IMS), German Media in Cooperation and Transition (MiCT), and France’s Media Development (CFI).
“Now, it is of utmost importance that impunity will not prevail.”
On Friday evening, unidentified gunmen assassinated al-Dijla news channel correspondent Ahmad Abdul Samad and photographer Safaa Ghali while they were covering protests in Iraq’s southern, oil-rich city of Basra.
“The Iraqi government must guarantee that the investigation is thorough, transparent and results in justice,“ the statement continued. “The Iraqi government has a clear opportunity to show its commitment to fighting violence against journalists in Iraq by achieving justice for the slain journalists.“
On Saturday, protesters in Basra took to the streets to honor the two fallen media workers, with police announcing that they had begun an investigation into the incident.
Taking to the streets in early October, demonstrators expressed long-held grievances about inadequate public services, a low standard of living, and chronic institutional graft in the nation. As their demands later grew with each passing week, they ultimately insisted on widespread reform and the ouster of the entire ruling elite who they see as unashamedly corrupt.
After a period of quiet as fears of a stand-off between the US and Iran and its proxy militias inside Iraqi territory increased, the demonstrations have now regained momentum, with violence committed against them reportedly ongoing.
The rise in violence has been channeled into assassinations and kidnappings of senior figures that have emerged from the demonstrations and journalists covering them.
According to official statistics, unidentified gunmen have assassinated up to 30 activists, most of whom participated in the anti-government protests that erupted late last year to call for the ouster of Iraq’s ruling elite.
While the Iraqi government has taken responsibility for some of the killings, allegations have been leveled at Iranian-backed militias for many incidents involving dozens of deaths among protesters, who have also decried Tehran’s influence in Baghdad.
Editing by John J. Catherine