Many violations are being committed in Iraq, whether the victims are civilians, minorities or media professionals. This comes as the country is fighting a war on multiple fronts.
Iraq is attempting to put an end to ISIS. At the same time, it is leading a push to root out corruption in addition to dealing with an economic crisis arising from the war on the terrorist that depleted its financial resources.
Besides, tension is escalating between Erbil and Baghdad following Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum.
Amid the above mentioned problems Iraq is grappling with, the country is also facing accusations of violating the rights of journalists and media professionals.
According to the Iraqi Center for Supporting Freedom of Speech (ICSFS), a number of violations have been committed against Iraqi journalists in September, including launching recurrent attacks on journalists and preventing them from entering the government institutions.
A journalist has been assaulted in Karbala, while another was arrested, ICSFS said.
The center also noted that security forces in Kirkuk forced Saif Reda, a TV reporter, and his family to immediately leave the governorate without any justifiable reason.
Moreover, ICSFS has given an account of violations against journalists that occurred in September this year.
On September 3, photojournalist Salam al-Daraji was injured in an ISIS attack on a power plant in Samarra city in Salahuddin Governorate.
Unidentified armed men attacked the house of Heba Hussein, a news editor at NINA news agency, in eastern Baghdad on September 9.
On September 15, media outlets were prevented from covering a meeting between Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Nasiriyah officials.
A bomb was found in the house yard of journalist Ali al-Etabi in Baghdad on September 17 and the one who planted it is still unknown.
In addition, on September 25, unidentified people smashed the car of photojournalist Ali al-Eqabi and stole his camera while covering a sports event in Baghdad.
Dangerous place for journalists
International organizations concerned with journalistic freedoms have always noted that Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.
Journalists in Iraq face significant risks, especially those who work in the field and write articles that displease the armed groups trying to extend their influence in Iraq.
However, the groups are rarely held accountable for their actions against journalists.
Saad Maan, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told al-Monitor in January this year, "We support journalists and we call on them to continue to practice their profession normally. We promise to provide them with protection and to hold accountable all those who violate their rights."
Lack of accountability
But despite the repeated promises made by Iraqi security officials, the people and parties who threaten or kill journalists are not brought to justice.
On the contrary, there are many examples of impunity. Journalists have united to try to pressure political parties into helping, but reporters and editors still fear the possibility of falling victim to kidnapping and terrorist attacks.
Imad al-Abadi, a well-known show host in Iraq who survived a 2009 assassination attempt in Baghdad, said, "Iraqi journalists still face many risks. Iraq is not a safe environment for journalists. We fear the [future] … in light of armed groups and gangs targeting freedom of expression."
Since 2003, not a year has gone by without Iraqi journalists being killed, which reflects the absence of legal and field protection from government authorities.
According to observers, Iraq can be a dangerous place for anyone, but journalists face the added threat of being kidnapped or killed at any given moment simply for being journalists.
Suppressing freedom of speech
Furthermore, activist Ali Sumarai told The Arab Weekly in January this year “There is a flagrant attempt by the government and certain parties in power to suppress freedom of speech and muzzle the public but this will only lead to further determination for gaining the rights stipulated under the Iraqi constitution,”
Lawlessness, the weakness of legal institutions and the proliferation of arms in the hands of private militias “encouraged many to encroach on people’s freedoms and rights, especially press people and activists,” he concluded.
Late in September, the Iraqi Press Syndicate said more than 465 Iraqi media professionals had been killed since 2003, including 20 in 2016.
Last year, Iraq came in the 158th place globally and 13th among Arab countries on the World Press Freedom Index.