Mosul journalists find their lives in danger

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As al-Qaeda tightens its grip on the administration of daily affairs in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, journalists who report on the terrorist group find their lives coming under increasing threat.

Before armed groups in Mosul started targeting Iraqi journalists, those “trouble seekers” used to face serious hardships that hindered their work to a large extent.

The majority of correspondents of satellite channels, newspapers and news agencies in the troubled city work under pseudonyms, while many of them are careful not to make provocative reports, which would provide factual information about the situation in the city, for fear of reprisal.

Many editors complain about the reticence of some of the city’s correspondents, who fail to obtain detailed information about the security situation. However, they do not pressure them because they fear for their lives and do not wish to put them at risk.

A well-informed source in Ninevah province told Al-Hayat that few Iraqi reporters residing in the province use their real names in work. However, they take preventive measures to avoid being targeted by insurgents.

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“Some of the journalists change their address every now and then. They hide the truth of their work and pretend to have other jobs. They do not work at their office and prefer working from home,” the source said.

The source also confirmed that investigative reports are usually done by journalists from outside the city, who usually visit for short periods of time. They receive some help from local journalists, who provide them with a certain amount of information.

The security situation has prompted some journalists from Mosul to move to the city of Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, where they can work on covering the events of their city through contacts with influential people in the local government.

Ziad Ojaili, director of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in Iraq, referred to a survey that was conducted last month when he spoke to Al-Hayat. He said that nearly 40 journalists and reporters had collectively left the city after a series of assassinations in the province. In fact, 12 journalists left to Turkey, while six others went to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Another 20 reporters headed to nearby districts and villages under the control of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, which is considered more stable.

However, Mosul’s journalists have been under a lot of pressure, which has pushed them to adopt a different pattern of journalistic work. They have begun to distance themselves from the scene of the incident and sources of information, instead writing press reports “remotely” about the situation in Mosul.

Moreover, reporters and journalists have been successful thanks to their investigative stories that have exposed, in an organized way, the forced tax collection imposed by armed groups on businessmen in the city.

Iraqi journalists, some of whom are from Mosul, have begun spreading stories about the huge lumps of money that radical organizations earn from shopping centers in the city. Meanwhile, the local press has snatched up these stories and reported them on a daily basis.

Apparently, it was not long before Mosul’s journalists had to pay the price for their courage when armed groups launched assassinations against them. An officer in the province’s police force said, “A special security force and I discovered a den for an armed group affiliated with al-Qaeda. They had the names of 40 journalists from Mosul on their assassination list.”

Yet, finding the list of wanted journalists was not enough to protect them.

Ghazwan Anas, the host of entertainment and sports programs on the Sama Mosul Channel, was not on a journalistic mission with a political or security aspect. In spite of this, four militants raided his house in the Sumer neighborhood southeast of the city on July 30, 2013. The gunmen shot Anas and killed him instantly, leaving his mother, wife and child in critical condition.

The specter of death seems to follow journalists, otherwise known as “trouble seekers,” even in their own homes.

A Reuters correspondent was kidnapped for two hours before being released. Then, an Al-Sharqiya correspondent was killed along with his photographer Oct. 5, 2013. A few days later, a journalist who worked in the local government was killed. Simultaneously, unknown men attacked the Al-Masar Channel’s correspondent.

Ojeili told Al-Hayat, “2013 marked the most fatal year for Iraqi journalists, as there were 293 incidents, in addition to 68 detentions, 95 cases of prohibition and constraint, 68 beatings and seven armed attacks.”

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Found in: mosul, media freedom, journalism in iraq, iraqi kurdistan region, erbil, al-qaeda
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