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THREE MEDIA WORKERS KILLED; IFEX MEMBERS URGE RELEASE OF KIDNAPPED JOURNALISTS

On 22 February 2006, one of Iraq's most well-known journalists, Atwar Bahjat, was shot to death along with her cameraman and sound engineer in the city of Samarra, a day after being kidnapped by gunmen while covering the aftermath of a bomb attack on a Shiite Muslim shrine, reported the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The bullet-riddled bodies of Bahjat, Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi and Adnan Khairallah were found on 23 February. A fourth person who was with them managed to escape. The reasons for the kidnapping are not known. The crew was on the outskirts of Samarra covering the bombing of the Shiite shrine Askariya, also known as the Golden Mosque.

Bahjat recently joined the Arabic satellite channel Al-Arabiya after working as a correspondent for rival network Al-Jazeera, where she had received death threats. She thought that moving to Al-Arabiya, considered more conservative and pro-American than Al-Jazeera, would be safer. Al-Falahi, 39, and Khairallah, 36, were employees of Wasan Productions who were on assignment for Al- Arabiya.

According to the Associated Press, Bahjat was the seventh woman journalist killed in Iraq. CPJ notes that at least three other Al-Arabiya journalists and five of its support workers have been killed since the Iraqi conflict began in March 2003.

Meanwhile, three journalists who are being held hostage in Iraq by insurgents remain in grave danger.

In a joint statement released yesterday, 25 IFEX member organisations called for the immediate release of Jill Carroll, Rim Zeid and Marwan Khazaal (see: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16583).

Carroll, who works for several Jordanian, Italian and US papers, including the "Christian Science Monitor", was kidnapped on 7 January by three armed men in west Baghdad as she went to meet a Sunni politician, Adnan al-Dulaimi. Her interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, was shot dead.

Zeid and Khazaal, who work for the Iraqi TV station Al-Sumariya, were seized by four armed men as they left a press conference on 1 February at the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Baghdad's western Yarmuk district.

Visit these links:

- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=3739&Language=EN
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/mideast/iraq23feb06na.html
- RSF:
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16535
- Statement by Al Arabiya: http://www.newssafety.com/stories/miscagencies/iraq230206.htm
- Iraqi Journalists' Call for Arms: http://www.newssafety.com/stories/insi/iraq240206.htm
- CPJ Statistics on Iraqi Killings: http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/Iraq/Iraq_danger.html
- RSF Portfolio on Iraq: http://www.rsf.org/special_iraq_en.php3
(Photo: Atwar Bahjat)

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