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Iraqi Police Mobilize Team To Protect Reporters

Slain Radio Free Iraq correspondent Khamail Khalaf
Iraqi authorities have unveiled a new hotline to protect journalists, but reporters in the world's most dangerous country still fear for their lives.

Police say they have thwarted two attempts to assassinate journalists in two weeks since setting up the hotline with a journalists' rights group.

One of the intended victims was Saad Qusay, a correspondent for the U.S.-funded Arabic-language TV channel Alhurra in the southern city of Al-Basrah. The Interior Ministry says it captured a militia member who had threatened to kill him.

Qusay praised the operation, which has also provided him with a round-the-clock police guard near his home, but said he still lives in fear.

The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists says about 135 journalists, including two RFE/RL correspondents, and 53 other media staff have been killed in Iraq since 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for reporters in recent decades. Other tallies are even higher.

Nazar Abd al-Wahid al-Radhi, a correspondent working for RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq was gunned down outside a hotel in Al-Amarah on May 30, 2007.

Radio Free Iraq correspondent Khamail Khalaf was abducted in Baghdad on her way home from work on April 3, 2007. Her body was found two days later.

The new hotline was set up with the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, a nongovernmental Iraqi organization that defends reporters.

The organization's head Ziad al-Ajili said the new initiative was a sign the authorities are at last recognizing the importance of protecting the media.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim al-Khalaf said that the Interior Ministry has records of 276 journalists killed since 2003.

(by Reuters)

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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