Last Updated: Wed Feb 23, 2011 18:11 pm (KSA) 15:11 pm (GMT)

Iraqi media watchdog blames government for theft

In Oct. Reporters Without Borders ranked Iraq a lowly 145th place out of 175 countries for media freedom (File)
In Oct. Reporters Without Borders ranked Iraq a lowly 145th place out of 175 countries for media freedom (File)

An Iraqi media watchdog on Wednesday accused the government of
being behind the theft of computers and documents at its premises, claiming authorities had been attempting to clamp down on its work.

"This is a message from the government, they are trying to stop us doing our work defending the press, because we have criticized the closure of news outlets and the levying of fines on publications," said Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) director Ziyad al-Ajeeli.

A guard at the JFO's offices in Baghdad's central commercial district Karrada said "at least 30 people, some wearing military uniforms and others dressed in black, came in security force vehicles at around 2:00 am (2300 GMT Tuesday) this morning."

"They broke into the office after breaking down the doors," said the guard, who did not want to give his name.

An AFP journalist who visited the JFO offices Wednesday morning said that the iron locks used to secure the organization’s building had been broken, several of the office's doors were damaged, and paper files and computer screens were lying on the floor.

Ajeeli said seven computers, two digital cameras and two video cameras were missing, as well as several mobile phones, bullet-proof vests, and electronic and paper documents.

"This is a real slap in the face of freedom of the press because the government is scared of what is happening in the Arab world," he said, referring to protests in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain following the popular overthrow of strongmen in Egypt and Tunisia.

"It does not know how to react to the situation, but fears the media."

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh did not immediately respond to requests for comment from AFP.

Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the raid and called for an independent investigation into the raid.

"The aim of this criminal raid was to silence an NGO that has been fighting for years for the right of Iraqi journalists to work freely and independently," said RSF secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard.

"Impunity must no longer be the rule in Iraq, which is a country that aspires to be a democracy."

In October, RSF ranked Iraq a lowly 145th place out of 175 countries for media freedom.

Comments »

Post Your Comment »

Social Media »