Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association annual report about journalists rights 2016

29 December, 2016

The legal environment is still not supportive of freedom of journalism and doesn’t provide safe work conditions throughout the country. The laws, which were legislated more than 40 years ago, are still active and reflect negatively on work conditions because they restrict freedoms of journalism. In addition to that, Iraqi Council of Representatives didn’t approve any supportive laws that cancel all other laws that contradict with article 38 of Iraqi constitution that guaranteed freedoms. The attempts of improving the situations of journalistic work are very shy and don’t meet the violence the journalists face. It is to be mentioned that Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association (IJRDA) didn’t notice any kind of seriousness by any of the governmental establishment to do anything that reduces violence against journalists.

Violence against Journalists

Through its continuous monitoring for violations against journalists in Iraq, IJRDA documented 179 violations committed in 2016 in different Iraqi cities. This number is higher than the numbers of previous years. Other journalists received threat letters from unknowns after publishing reports about corruptions cases in some governmental establishments. IJRDA remarked that security forces didn’t seriously follow up the threat cases, no investigations were conducted which negatively affected journalists’ lives in Iraq. Also in 2016, at least 14 journalists were killed, mostly by ISIS while covering the fight between security forces and ISIS. The bellow table gives more details about the assassinations. 
  Journalist’s Name Place and reason of death Date
Alaa Qasim Died after serious wounded by car bomb in east Baghdad on May 10 May 22
Tahseen Ali Abbas Shot by ISIS in Fallujah May 23
Talah Abu Eman Executed by ISIS in Mosul May 27
Ali Aryan Oda Assassinated by ISIS west Baghdad May 31
Fadhil Abbas al—Gar’aawi Assassinated by ISIS in Fallujah June 5
Ahmed Mohammed Hmedi Police found his body in Kirkuk after kidnapped by unknown June 20
Ali Mahmoud Killed by ISIS while covering fight in Mosul June 13
Zain al-Abideen Kathum Died for lack of medical care after being bitten by snake in Diwaniyah July 17
Mustafa Saeed Killed while covering fight against ISIS in Mosul Aug 14
Widad Hussein Kidnapped and killed in Smill area in Dohuk province Kurdistan region Aug 15
Ahmed Hajir Auglo Shot by sniper in Kirkuk Oct. 29
Shukri Zain al-Abideen Police found his body in Kirkuk in Kurdistan region Dec 1
Mohammed Thabit Assassinated by unknown in downtown Kirkuk Dec. 7
Hashim Faris Executed by ISIS in Mosul three days after arresting him Dec. 11
As a conclusion, journalistic work is still so complicated and linked to death danger in Iraq. It reached higher levels of risk that had never been reached in any other countries that suffer unstable conditions.

IJRDA is surprised that security authorities didn’t even follow up the crime of assassinating Mohammed Thabit who used to work for Iraqi Media Network. The crime was recorded against unknowns. The investigations were not sufficient which would lead to the continuity of violence against journalists and give the killers more chances to escape from punishment.

Cases against Journalists

In 2016,  the court of publishing and media received many cases against the journalists who published reports about corruption issues and referred to the involvement of some high-ranking officials. The most famous case is the case of Falah al-Fadhly, the reporter of Fayhaa satellite Chanel, These journalists were sued because the courts still working according to the valid Iraqi Penal Code which was approved by the former regime in 1969. According to the law, journalists can be sued in many different articles which are absolutely contradicted with democratic principles. This is clearly against Iraqi constitution which guaranteed freedom of journalism.

The right of access to information

Iraqi governmental establishments hide information and prevent journalists from reaching them. IJRDA remarked that governmental establishments deal negatively with the reporters of different media outlets. Although the association presented a draft of access to information law to the council of representatives, the draft was read one time and neglected. Averages of corruption increase as a result of the ability to hide information and the absence of any law that obliges governmental establishments to facilitate the work of journalists in reaching information. 

Lack of Training

In 2016, the fight against ISIS widened in Iraq. Media outlets joined Iraqi security forces to cover the fight and the movements of these forces in very dangerous areas. IJRDA pointed out that those Iraqi journalists didn’t receive any kind of safety training. Moreover, they are not really provided with the suitable equipment for this mission. They were not even trained how to use their equipment during fight or how to move inside was zones.

Arbitrary dismissal

The financial crisis affected seriously on work conditions in media outlets. Many media stations closed out because of lack of funding. Others forces their workers to do extra missions or to leave work. So many journalists had to accept doing extra work for free to avoid losing their jobs.
Ibraheem Al-Sragey, Head of Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association
Translated by Laith Hammoudi Director of projects
References and further readings