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Attack on private radio station kills two, injures five, puts station off air; government not protecting journalists, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Latest Media Attack on Eve of Safety Crisis Meeting in Iraq

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said that yesterday's horrific attack on private radio station Radio Dijla that killed two employees shows that the government is not protecting journalists and armed groups are able to attack media workers with impunity.

On Thursday, gunmen attacked staff at the independent radio station in a predominantly Sunni area of Baghdad, killing two and wounding five, and then bombed the building and knocked the station off the air. It was the third attack on the station in five months. The station's deputy director told the Associated Press that gunmen also tried to kidnap four employees as they were riding to work, but the driver managed to get away.

"The attack on Radio Dijla is shocking but it underscores the fact that media are seen as an easy target in Iraq," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "Many Iraqi news organisations and their employees have been victims of numerous attacks. In 2006 alone, Radio Dijla, Al Iraqiya TV and Al Sabah newspaper lost multiple employees and the government has not been able to stem these losses."

In response to the escalating violence, next week the two IFJ affiliates in Iraq are organising an urgent meeting on security for Iraqi journalists. The meeting, hosted by the Kurdish Journalists' Syndicate and co-organised with the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, will involve media and government representatives from throughout the country. Together with the International News Safety Institute and the IFJ, participants will be charged with developing a national safety plan for Iraqi journalists.

At least 199 journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003. At least 26 journalists have been killed since the start of this year. The victims have been overwhelmingly Iraqi and they have been attacked in their offices, while on assignment and even in their own neighborhoods. In 2006, two Radio Dijla employees were killed in separate incidents. Al Iraqiya TV lost eight employees and Al Sabah lost four.

"Journalists in Iraq are working despite the intense and unrelenting attacks, kidnappings and threats that they face," White said. "Their professionalism and dedication is inspiring but we believe the government should do more to eliminate these threats and to bring all the perpetrators of these attacks to justice."

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide.

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