What happened to you on July 31 in Arasat?Ali al-Yassi:
While I was going to cover a story about the kidnapping of 25 employees [of the Iraqi-U.S. Chamber of Commerce] with my camera crew and assistant, I found about three or four civilians carrying weapons guarding the [Chamber of Commerce] building. The street was empty.
In front of this building, there was a restaurant. I headed straight for the restaurant. The [restaurant employees] told me, "You cannot take your camera and shoot there because already those guards have arrested a crew." About 30 or 40 minutes before we arrived, [the police] arrested [another Iraqi film crew] and took their camera. So I kept myself in that restaurant and I made short interviews with the [restaurant] workers and they told us what happened during the kidnapping.
While I was doing my interviews, we were surprised by a police patrol. It was actually four or five cars from the police. And they came straight away to the restaurant, and I showed them my I.D. and I told them, "I work for Alhurra TV and [this] was my crew, and we are trying to take some interviews." And they said: "It's OK. You can do your interviews and you can also [film] the building and you can take a film for our patrols right there." And I said: "OK. It's quite better for us."RFE/RL:
These were uniformed police?Al-Yassi:
After [some time passed], I told my cameraman to go to the street to shoot [footage of] the building. After two minutes, I was surprised by six civilians with weapons. One of them, I can bet that he was the leader, he was wearing a sport[suit and] carrying a gun, he came shouting at us, insulting us, especially the cameraman.... He insulted me and he beat me.
I was shocked. The police didn't move and didn't take any step [to intervene]. RFE/RL:
The police were watching this?Al-Yassi:
Yeah, just watching me [be beaten]. RFE/RL:
These civilians that were beating you, were they the same ones you saw outside the [Chamber of Commerce] building when you arrived?Al-Yassi:
Yeah, and also [some of them had come] from inside the building. RFE/RL:
Who were they? Police or militia?Al-Yassi:
Actually, I didn't know who [they were]. But after five or six minutes, the police interfered and they released us from them. I went to the commander of the police patrol, and I [asked] him: "How can you stand there watching? Why didn't you interfere? Why did you let this happen?"RFE/RL:
What did he say?Al-Yassi:
He was an officer, muqaddam [lieutenant colonel].
Then the office told me: "I can't do anything for you. You don't know [who they are]. All I can tell you is that those guys are from the police." [Al-Yassi later clarified that the officer told him the men in civilian clothes were from the Office for Confronting Capital Crimes (Maktab Mukafaha Jara'im Al-Kubra)]. RFE/RL:
Was the officer afraid of these men [in civilian clothes]?Al-Yassi:
Did you get any formal response from the government?Al-Yassi:
Unfortunately, they didn't say anything. They had a press release -- not concerning the accident, but in general. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the presence of members of the media in Arasat led to the destruction of evidence [interfering in a crime scene]. The press release referred to members of the media as troublemakers. RFE/RL:
As an Iraqi journalist who is out on the street every day, how has the situation changed for you in the last six months or the last year?Al-Yassi:
We worked in dangerous matters for a [long] time. I was threatened, and I've been held hostage [by the Imam Al-Mahdi Army militia] in Al-Sadr City and in Al-Najaf, but they released us. I accepted what they did to us, even if they insulted us or beat us [and] held us hostage. I can [excuse them] because they don't know...they are not a state, they are not the government. But when a threat comes from a government, this is the problem. This is the main problem; you are not dealing with certain groups [whom] you do not know. RFE/RL:
You were taken hostage twice?Al-Yassi:
Yes. In Al-Sadr City in the first conflict  and in Al-Najaf [Al-Yassi later clarified that he was kidnapped in Al-Kufah during the first standoff between the Al-Mahdi Army and coalition forces in Al-Najaf in the spring of 2004. In both cases, he was abducted by the Al-Mahdi Army]. RFE/RL:
Did they threaten you?Al-Yassi:
Actually, [in Al-Kufah] I was very afraid because there were a lot of people there and most of them were [uneducated]. So, when they noticed me, they [called me] an agent, saying I worked with the Americans. Even if they didn't know who I [was]; they just realized I was a journalist. RFE/RL:
Now, when you look at the situation in Baghdad and what is happening, what do you think?Al-Yassi:
It is horrible. To work as a journalist here, it is very horrible. We are asked to go and make a stand-up [report] in the street. Right now, especially in the last two months, I really feel afraid to go out in the street and make a [report] because a lot of our colleagues have been killed or assassinated in the street...in Al-Mansur Street or in another street....RFE/RL:
Do you have any protection when you're out on the street?Al-Yassi:
Do you now feel afraid from both sides, militias and the government?Al-Yassi:
What happened to me [left] me confused. I can't judge myself right now, because it's [only been] four days since what happened to me. I can't make any reports or go to work....RFE/RL:
And how are your fellow journalists coping now with the security situation in Baghdad, are they working?Al-Yassi:
[I know of] three or four reporters who have left their jobs and [I know of others] who have received threatening letters. Some reporters work without showing their face or using their names.RFE/RL:
Does the security situation affect the way you do your job? Do you avoid some areas of the city?Al-Yassi:
Most of the districts in Baghdad are dangerous now, but I take the risk because it is my job. I go to those places even if it is dangerous. But right now, I feel that my soul is broken. I can't go anywhere. I need to have some rest in order to know which way I'm going.