Media Advocate: Iraqi Forces Attacking Press

Published September 29, 2010

| Associated Press

BAGHDAD-- A media advocacy group on Wednesday criticized Iraqi security forces for what it described as a string of recent attacks on local journalists, saying the threatening climate puts the development of a free press at risk.

Reporters without Borders cited three incidents last week during which it said security officials roughed up Iraqi reporters, photographers and cameramen.

In one, the Paris-based group said journalists were forced to lie face down on the ground while police beat and insulted them at a Baghdad checkpoint following a political meeting.

"Such a climate of impunity is undermining the possibilities of developing a free and independent press in Iraq," the group said in a statement. "Those responsible for this violence must be identified and brought to trial."

The group also condemned a targeted bombing this week that wounded an anchor at state-run Iraqiya TV. It was the third such attack on a TV presenter this month, the organization said.

More than 140 journalists and dozens more media support staffers have been killed since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. While violence levels in the country have dropped significantly in recent years, rights groups say Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

Also Wednesday, Iraqi security forces announced the arrest of an alleged top al-Qaida-linked operative.

Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said officials detained Muhanned Mohammed Nayif, 35, and charged him with plotting recent terror attacks in southern Iraq.
Al-Moussawi showed reporters a video in which Nayif claims to be a ranking official of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq and other allied Sunni insurgent factions.

Meanwhile, the trial of two Iraqi men accused of killing six British military policemen in 2003 was postponed.

A British Embassy spokeswoman in Baghdad said the Iraqi court delayed the hearing until Oct. 10 to give more witnesses time to travel.

The six British soldiers reportedly were playing football with Iraqi police officers they were training in the southern town of Majar al-Kabir when a mob chased them into a police station and shot them.

Majar al-Kabir is about 120 miles north of Basra, Iraq's second largest city near the southern Kuwaiti border.

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