Journalists, photographers and other media personnel covering the protests in Iraq have been facing threats from various groups over the past few months.
Ziad al-Ajili, who is the director of the Journalist Freedoms Observatory in Iraq, discussed the situation of journalists and press freedom during the protesters over the past few months, which, at times, have had violent consequences for media personnel.
Al-Ajili notes that around a dozen journalists have thus far been kidnapped by militia groups who have been against their work in covering the protests. Some of these individuals have since been released. Two reporters were also recently killed in January. Ahmad Abdelsamad, a correspondent for Dijla TV and Safaa Ghali, his cameraman, were murdered in Basra in January by a group of unknown armed men.
Certain militia groups working to derail the protests have not only targeted media staff, but have also kidnapped and harmed activists and social media figures. The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) has condemned these illegal acts that are hindering the work of the media and obstructing the freedom of press and freedom of expression. The UN has criticised the Iraqi Government for not doing enough to protect media personnel, activists and protesters from kidnappings and assaults.
Attacks on media outlets have nonetheless not only been limited to militia groups, but also the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Recently, the studios of Dijla TV in Baghdad were allegedly raided by the ISF after the authorities in Jordan, where the channel is based, ordered the closure of the channel for a month. According to Iraqi security sources, the ISF forcefully evacuated the staff inside the Baghdad office and closed down the building. While the channel resumed its broadcast via Facebook Live, the owners of the channel, the Karboli family, condemned this move, saying that it is an attempt by the Iraqi Government to silence the channel, which has been broadcasting the Iraqi protests since its launch. Several hashtags were launched by activists online in support of the channel.