Iraq - Another interior ministry initiative to protect journalists



    MONTREAL, Oct. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders hails the
Iraqi interior ministry's creation of a hotline for journalists in danger just
a few weeks after it set up a special police unit to investigate murders of
journalists. Created jointly with the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in
Iraq (JFO), a Reporters Without Borders partner organisation, the hotline may
have already saved lives. Two journalists in the southern city of Basra eluded
threats by calling the number and getting the security forces to intervene.
    The war in Iraq has been the deadliest armed conflict for the media since
the Second World War, with at least 222 journalists and media assistants
killed since the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003.
    "Protecting journalists is one of the challenges of building a democratic
Iraq," Reporters Without Borders said. "This security initiative by the
interior ministry and local partners indicates that the authorities are
beginning to realise the need to put an end to the impunity enjoyed until now
by those who have committed acts of violence against hundreds of journalists
in Iraq."
    Reporters Without Borders urged the Iraqi authorities in May 2007 to
create a Task Force for crimes of violence against journalists along the lines
of a special force set up for this purpose in the Philippines. In the course
of several meetings with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the press freedom
organisation has repeatedly called for measures to combat impunity.
    According to the Iraqi interior ministry, some 50 police investigations
are currently under way into murders, kidnappings and physical attacks in
which journalists were the victims. The police have meanwhile announced the
arrest of a suspected Al-Qaeda member of Saudi nationality who is believed to
have participated in the murder of four employees of the privately-owned
Al-Sharqiya TV station on 13 September in the northern city of Mosul. The
police are still looking for his accomplices.
    By calling the hotline, which is manned by the JFO, Al-Hurra TV
correspondent Saad Qusay, obtained around-the-clock police protection at his
home in Basra after being threatened by an armed group, one of whose members
was identified and arrested. The authorities subsequently advised him to leave
the country temporarily as an additional safety measure.
    After intruders broke into the Basra home of Al-Sumariya TV correspondent
Hashem Al-Ibi and threatened him in connection with his journalistic
activities, he called the hotline and the police succeeded in identifying and
arresting them.
    As well as the hotline, the partnership between the interior ministry and
JFO also envisages measures to facilitate journalists' movements about the
country, including the loan of helmets and bullet-proof vests to journalists
visiting war zones.

    Journalistic Freedoms Observatory hotline in Iraq:

    
    +96417186706
    +9647901514862
    

    With support from American Express, Reporters Without Borders has been
operating a "Press SOS" hotline in France for the past 15 years. The number
can be called 24 hours a day in French or English, reversing the charges if
necessary, in order to report the arrest, deportation or disappearance of a
journalist to Reporters Without Borders. Not only journalists but also their
families, news media and journalistic organisations are invited to use the
hotline.

    Press SOS

    +33147777414

    The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in Iraq won the Reporters Without
Borders-Fondation de France annual prize in the Press Freedom Defender
category in 2007 for its vital work in gathering and reporting information
about violence against journalists in Iraq. The same year, JFO joined the
Reporters Without Borders network.

    
    On the same subject:

    16.09.2008 - "We won't let armed groups do as they please," interior
    minister tells Reporters Without Borders
    (http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28573)

    31.05.2007 - Call for special task force to tackle violence against press
    after four journalists killed in past five days
    (http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=22362)
    




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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