Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Reporters continue to be targeted in Iraq

As noted yesterday: "Alsumaria TV reports, 'Religious programs anchor on Al Iraqiya Satellite TV network and head of Al Sheala District Riyad Al Saray was killed by unknown gunmen in central Baghdad'." Reporters Without Borders explains:

Riyad Assariyeh, a 35-year-old journalist working for state-run Al Iraqiya TV, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was leaving his home in Baghdad this morning. This clearly targeted murder brings to 15 the number of Al Iraqiya journalists who have been killed since Saddam Hussein's removal.
Reporters Without Borders calls for a proper investigation capable of identifying and arresting both the perpetrators and instigators of this murder and bringing them to justice. It would be deplorable it this killing were to go unpunished, which unfortunately has been the case in 99 per cent of the 230 murders of journalists and media workers since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The Committee to Protect Journalists offers

"We extend our deep condolences to the family and colleagues of Riad al-Saray," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We call on the Iraqi authorities to end the culture of impunity by investigating this murder and bringing all those responsible to justice."
Al-Saray, who joined Al-Iraqiya in 2005, hosted programs that sought to reconcile Shiites and Sunnis, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. Amar Hassan, an Al-Iraqiya colleague, said that while al-Saray addressed political issues in his programs, he was not considered controversial. He said al-Saray was on his way to Karbala in southern Iraq when he was gunned down at about 6 a.m. Police said the gunmen used silencers in the attack.
Al-Iraqiya is part of the state-run Iraqi Media Network and has wide viewership across the nation. At least 14 other Iraqi Media Network staffers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, the highest death toll for any media organization in Iraq during that period.

Reporters Without Borders has just released [PDF format warning] "The Iraq War: A Heavy Death Toll For The Media." The report counts 230 journalists (here we classify all as journalists not "journalists" and "media workers" -- it's a war zone, we're not quibbling, the 230 were journalists) who have been killed in Iraq and finds that 12 were women but 93% of the deaths were men. 87% of those killed were Iraqis. 77 of the deaths took place in Baghdad.

In 2006, Nuri al-Maliki's government regularly threatened to shut down certain newspapers after accusing them of incitement to violence. Television networks were also pointed out as being responsible for stirring up ethnic and religious passions. They were prohibited from broadcasting segments that showed blood or murder scenes. On 5 November 2006, the Minister of the Interior decided to close down the Sunni television networks Al-Zawra and Salah-Eddin for having broadcast footage of demonstrators waving pictures of former dictator Saddam Hussein and protesting against his capital sentence. Both stations are still closed down.
In 2007, addition restrictions were imposed on the media. In May, the authorities banned journalists from filming bomb-stricken areas. In November of that year, they were also prohibited from going to the Kandil mountains on the Iraqi-Turkish border to meet with PKK rebels. Passage of the bill for the protection of journalists would make it possible to improve media professionals' working conditions. The Iraqi Parliament's delay in initiating a review of the bill -- which has been postponed since September 2009 -- appears to be one reason for the unrelenting attacks on the Iraqi press.

Nouri's war on the press has been never ending. And it was applauded in the summer of 2006 by US outlets who refused to report Nouri's 'big plan' which included attacks on press freedom. At the BBC or AFP, you could find out about it. Not at the US outlets where apparently it was decided to 'invest' in Nouri and not in journalism. Nouri's attacks on the press have been very beneficial to him and allowed him to continue his grip on Iraq even though he should have been forced out of office by the United Nations months ago because his term has expired.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 31 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) noted that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted. That's today, September 8th. Six months since Iraqis voted. No government.

As Steven Hussain (UT's Shorthorn) points out, "Since the March elections, the Iraqi parliament has only met once for a total of 18 minutes. As of now, there seems no end in sight for this deadlock, and the furture of Iraq is still hanging in the balance." Duraid Al Baik (Gulf News) reports:

Many Iraqis say they have lost confidence in their country's ability to rise again. Many have left Iraq for neighbouring countries where they are awaiting the approval of western countries to accept them as refugees from what once was called "Liberated Iraq".
"Those, the majority of course, who had no option to leave the country are still struggling with power shortages and saline water and [a] lack of drainage system... the basics that they enjoyed under dictatorship," Baghdad University political science professor Dr Hassan Ali said.
"For them the fight over who is going to form the government is a sort of luxury they can not afford under the pressures of daily life."
He said that parliament, which is required by the constitution to elect the speaker of the House, the president of the country and the new prime minister to run the country for the next four years, had so far failed to perform its duty since it convened in June.

Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) covers the violence from yesterday, "Also, in southwestern Baghdad on Tuesday, at least two people were killed and six others wounded in a roadside bombing, the official said. The attack targeting police in the Bayaa neighborhood killed at least one policeman and wounded two others, and the rest of the casualties were civilian bystanders. In the north of the country, at least three members of one family were found shot dead in their home Tuesday morning. Police in Samarra say they discovered the bullet-riddled bodies of a husband, his wife and her brother."

In justice news, War Hawk Tony Blair has another cancellation. The BBC reports that he's canceled his book event today. No real excuse is provided for this second cancellation; however, there are rumors that he's very upset by a Labour proposal the UK Parliament might take up which would require him and other foreign ministers to pay for their own security costs when participating in for-profit engagements. His London appearance would have reported cost the US equivalent of $250,000 to provide protection for Blair. UK's Stop The War notes:

Tony Blair's decision to cancel his party at Tate Modern gallery today, following him pulling out of a book-signing at Waterstone's, is another victory for the anti war movement and for the overwhelming majority in Britain who oppose his wars.

With Blair running scared of peaceful, democratic protests, Stop the War has cancelled the demonstration against Tate Modern being used to celebrate the publication of a war criminal's book.

The number of prominent artists who supported the Tate protest is yet another indication of how widespread is the determination that Blair will one day be held to account for his war crimes in Iraq.

The ignominy of war criminal Blair scuttling away from any contact with the general public is bound to be discussed at tonight's Stop the War public meeting in the House of Commons (see below).

Q: Who said: "You've got to put in prison those who deserve to be there"? A: Tony Blair, 6 September 2010

Jane Arraf (at McClatchy's Miami Herald) has a strong report on the lack of rule of law in Iraq. I still haven't read it but promised a friend I'd link to it, yesterday Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) covered the antiquities and Steven Lee Myers covers the topic in today's New York Times. I'll try to read both before the snapshot today and include them in it but this is just not a topic I had time for yesterday or was 'into'. (Which isn't to insult either writer or their coverage, I just wasn't in the mood to dredge up all that was needed to process those stories. The looting is a larger story and I just didn't have, as Carly Simon once sang, time for the pain. ) And you can put Stephen Farrell's NYT blog post with those two.

We'll close with this from March Forward's Mike Prysner (at Party for Socialism and Liberation):

As the month of August came to an end, it seemed that something may happen in Afghanistan for the first time in 2010: that the month would not surpass the previous year’s record-setting number of U.S. troop fatalities.
By Aug. 27, only 31 U.S. troops had been killed in combat; 20 shy of the 51 deaths in August 2009.
It was during the last week of August 2010, that the Obama administration began prodding us to cheer the “end” of the Iraq war—a key campaign promise that helped propel Obama to the presidency, after people in the United States turned against the senseless, constant death of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians.
But while the White House pumped out cheery statements, photo-ops, and a dramatic “exit” with manufactured fanfare, the blood started flowing much more heavily from Afghanistan.
On Aug. 27, four U.S. troops were killed. Three of the dead were only 20-years-old.
Between Aug. 28 and 29, eight more troops lost their lives, bringing the month’s total to 43 deaths—still short of the previous year.
Then, in one of the deadliest days of the war, seven U.S. troops were killed on Aug 30. Six more died on Aug. 31 to close out the month.

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