Friday, May 24, 2013

Iraq: Journalists arrested for covering protests

Fridays in Iraq. Since December 21st, that's meant ongoing protests. Though there's been little interest in covering it on the part of US and other western outlets, Iraqi journalists continue to try to cover the protests.  And pay a price for trying to create a free press in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports Anbar police arrested seven journalists for attempting to cover the Ramadi sit-in.  Among the arrested was Alsumaria's photojournalist and cameraman Anmar al-Ani.   In order to be released, Alsumaria reports, Anmar al-Ani was forced to sign a pledge that he would not cover the protests.  It was made clear to him that he would not be released without signing the pledge.  He says that he was interrogated by the Police Directorate in Anbar.  Does the White House -- as it gives Nouri's regime billions this year alone and US service members for 'counter-terrorism' -- ever raise this issue of cracking down on the press?  Maybe.  Maybe they say things like, "Call Anmar al-Ani a 'co-conspirator' and be sure and seize phone records."

In addition to Ramadi, Iraqi Spring MC reports that reporters covering the Falluja demonstration were threatened by security forces.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that "tens of thousands" turned out in Ramadi and Falluja.  Anbar organizer Shiekh Mohammed Fayyad states that "the primary goal is to inform the government that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by the citizens deep convictions."  In Falluja, Iraqi Spring MC reports, there were calls for an investigation into the second massacre of Falluja (November 2004) by the occupation forces and the Iraqi government.  The photo below is an Iraqi Spring MC photo of today's demonstration in Falluja (and click here for their Facebook page and more photos).

 Protests also took place in BaijiBaghdad. and Baquba, and the Iraqi Spring MC video below is Baquba demonstrators.

Alsumaria reports (and check out their photo of the huge crowd) protests also took place in Samarr and Tikrit and that, in Sammar, surveys were passed out by organizers to the demonstrators to get their feedback.

Al Mada reports that Martin Kobler, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, joined former Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, MP ahmed al-Alwani, and  Marwan Ali for a press conference at the home of Sahwa leader Ahmed Abu Risha to emphasize how important peaceful protest is and that this is a right the Constitution guarantees.  Kobler stated the UN confirms the right to demonstrate peacefully.  The attacks on journalists were called out and Kobler noted that freedom of the press is guaranteed in the country's Constitution.  Rafie al-Issawi declared that, after five months, the government (Nouri al-Maliki) has still not implemented the demands of the six provinces that have been protesting.   He also called for military forces, Nouri's federal forces and SWAT to leave Anbar and the end of arrest warrants for sit-in leaders.   Alwani's statements included calling out "genocides" in Diyala and Hawija and for the "war criminals" to be tried in international courts.

Tuesday, April 23rd Nouri's federal forces stormed a sit-in in Hawija causing a massacre.   Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.UNICEF counts 8 children dead in the massacre and twelve more children were left injured.

Nouri ignores the protests except to attack them -- verbally and physically.  And his focus on demonizing protesters has taken his already awkward focus off security so things just get worse and worse in Iraq.   Aleem Maqbool (BBC News) reports:

"The main problems are inside Iraq, the Iraqis themselves, the leaders," says Hana Edward, an Iraqi activist who campaigned against human rights abuses during the time of Saddam Hussein, but who says her work has had to continue.
"After Saddam went, we were thrilled about freedom and were looking forward to enjoying our human rights, but unfortunately it is not like that and there are gross violations," Ms Edward says.
"Our leaders have a mentality of exclusion and totalitarianism. The Iraqi regime is becoming a new dictatorship."
And many Sunnis feel they are being persecuted by Iraq's Shia-led government, in a reversal of what happened in the time of Saddam Hussein.
Ms Edward has been one of those taking part in demonstrations against government forces detaining large numbers of Sunni Iraqis without ever putting them on trial.

All Iraq News notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul.  Alsumaria adds that another Mosul attack left one police officer injured and an armed attack on a Baghdad police station has left seven police officers injured.  National Iraqi News Agency reports an assassination attempt in Awja on Col Akrahm Saddam Midlif which he survived but which left two of his bodyguards wounded and late last night there was an attempted assassination on Diyala Province Governor Omar Himyari in Hamrin which left one of his bodyguards injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 653 violent deaths so far this month. 

The following community sites -- plus Susan's On the Edge, Pacifica Evening News, Jody Watley, the Guardian,, Ms. magazine's blog, The Diane Rehm Show and Cindy Sheehan -- updated last night:

Wally and Cedric?  They last posted yesterday morning:

I'll be filling in for Ann tonight and over the next two weeks -- others may grab a night (they're welcome to), but there will be new posts at her site.  She said I could announce this or I wouldn't, but she has gone into labor.  Cedric's at the hospital with her (of course, he's her husband, for those who don't know).  I've told Cedric that since Wally and I are usually together (sometimes Wally goes home to Florida but most of the time we're in DC together or at my home in California together) I can easily fill in for him (Cedric) with their joint-posts.  If I do that, I'm not putting my name on it, those are "BULLY BOY PRESS &   CEDRIC'S BIG MIX " humor posts. There's no need for me to insert myself into it.  I will begin filling in this evening if needed.  Cedric's hoping to grab one post today but Ann told me on the phone her feeling/fear is that it's going to be a long labor (they are doing natural child birth) so I'm saying Cedric may not be able to do a post today.  If that's the case by this evening, I'll start filling in today.  A photo of Ann and Cedric's baby will run, Cedric says, in El Spirito on Sunday.

And let me finish up with community business by noting, Memorial Day?  New content here.  Iraq snapshot?  Only if the events make it necessary.  We'll be on holiday schedule.  Isaiah will have a comic and Kat will have a music review on Sunday or Monday.

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