Last week, unknown militants gunned down Iraqi broadcaster Liqa Abd al-Razzaq and three of her companions in a Baghdad taxi, according to media reports. Abd al-Razzaq was well-known to Iraqis as the broadcaster for Al-Sharqiyah television's "Sahafah" (Press) program and as a newsreader, Al-Sharqiyah reported. She previously worked for the Iraqi state-run media under the Hussein regime as a broadcaster with domestic Iraqi television and with the Iraqi Satellite Channel. Abd al-Razzaq was reportedly also under contract with U.S.-supported Al-Iraqiyah television. Militants gunned down Abd al-Razzaq's husband two months ago for reportedly working with the U.S. military. Abd al-Razzaq left behind a newborn daughter and six-year-old son.
On 15 October, Iraqi photographer Karam Husayn, who worked for the European Pressphoto Agency, was assassinated by militants outside his Mosul home. One day earlier, Dina Muhammad Hassan, a correspondent for Al-Hurriyah television, which is owned by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was gunned down in front of her home in the Iraqi capital. The International Federation of Journalists (http://www.ifj.org) reported on 18 October that Hassan had received unspecified threats to stop working for Al-Hurriyah and was warned to wear a hijab, or Islamic head scarf.
One of the boldest attacks on journalists in recent months was the 30 October car bombing of the Baghdad office of Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah television. A group identifying itself as the Jihadist Martyrs Brigade in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombing, which killed seven staff members, and injured at least a dozen employees. In a statement posted on the Internet, the group said that the channel was targeted "after much hesitation" due to its excessive praise of the interim government led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Beirut's Al-Manar television reported on 31 October. The group called the bombing an "ultimatum," adding that it's next attack would be a "quality operation." The group also threatened to attack media agencies and television channels based outside Iraq should they fail to meet what it called "balanced" reporting -- meaning the media should present the militants' view in their reporting. The statement added that the militants intended to kidnap journalists and slaughter them like sheep if they continued to reflect the view of the U.S. "occupiers" in their reporting.
The organization Reporters Without Borders listed Iraq as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists in its "Third Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index" issued on 26 October (http://www.rsf.org). The organization's website keeps a detailed list of Iraqi and foreign journalists killed in Iraq, that includes documentation on the killing of more than 40 Western reporters targeted over the past 19 months. While some of the deaths were the result of ongoing hostilities in the country, other deaths were the result of targeted killings. Italian freelance journalist Enzo Baldoni was kidnapped and killed by his captors on 26 August after seven days in captivity. The militant group Islamic Army in Iraq had demanded that Italy withdraw its troops from Iraq, a request that the Italian government refused to meet.
Meanwhile, two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq in late August remain unaccounted for. French Ambassador to Iraq Bernard Bajolet said on 1 November that the journalists are alive and reportedly in good health, Al-Jazeera television reported. Bajolet based his comments on information received from a Sunni organization, the Muslim Scholars Association, which reportedly has contacts with the kidnappers, who have demanded that France reverse its law banning Muslim girls from wearing head scarves in school.
The targeting of journalists working in Iraq appears to be part of a concerted effort by militants to effect control over the media and how it reports the events taking place there. The Al-Arabiyah bombing provides the clearest view on the agenda of militants. The journalists targeted by and large represent news organizations that are to varying degrees critical of the terrorism taking place in Iraq today -- or conversely, supportive, to varying degrees, of the U.S.-backed Allawi government.
The possibility cannot be discounted that others are perhaps victims of the continuous bloodletting of Iraqi professionals -- doctors, lawyers, professors, and businessmen -- that have routinely been the targets of assassins in recent months. Whichever the case may be, the effect will be the same. Much of the country already remains closed to journalists, who reportedly don't venture far from their bases inside the Iraqi capital because of the security risks. The continued targeting of journalists will only further inhibit the media's ability to cover Iraq and threatens to reverse the development of the burgeoning Iraqi media since the fall of the Hussein regime.
[For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".]