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U.S. Journalism Museum Honors Reporters Killed In Action

RFE/RL freelancer Rafiq Tagi died of stab wounds last year in an attack he said was related to a critical article he had written about human rights in Iran.
RFE/RL freelancer Rafiq Tagi died of stab wounds last year in an attack he said was related to a critical article he had written about human rights in Iran.
WASHINGTON -- Journalists from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Russia are among 70 individuals who have been memorialized at a U.S. journalism museum for giving their lives to their profession in 2011.

Chris Wells, former senior vice president of Freedom Forum, a U.S.-based free press advocacy group, presided over the ceremony on May 14 at the Newseum in Washington, where the names are now inscribed on a memorial wall.

According to Wells, the diverse group of journalists had been "brought together in a fellowship [that] none of them would have chosen."

"They spoke different languages; they worked in different spheres of news gathering," she said. "Some of them were known to millions on the nightly news; some of them worked in anonymity. Some of them knew of impending danger, but many of them were surprised.

"The common thread that united them all was their commitment to journalism and the fact that they left us all too soon."

According to the Newseum, seven journalists were killed in Iraq last year either while reporting or due to their work. Press watchdog groups say the country continues to rank as the most dangerous for journalists.

Violent Deaths

Among the fallen Iraqi journalists was Hilal Al-Ahmadi, 50, who was known for his reporting on financial and administrative corruption. He was killed by gunfire as he left his Mosul home in February 2011.

Sabah Al-Bazi, a correspondent for Al-Arabiyah television, was covering a provincial government building in Tikrit last year when gunmen seized control of the building and detonated bombs, explosive vests, and grenades. He was 30.

Seven Pakistani journalists killed last year -- Nasrullah Khan Afridi, Wali Khan Babar, Shafiullah Khan, Asfandyar Abid Naveed, Faisal Qureshi, Javed Naseer Rind, and Syed Saleem Shahzad -- were also recognized by the U.S. museum.
Slain Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad
Slain Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad

Shahzad, 40, had written about alleged links between the Pakistani Navy and Al-Qaeda before he was found dead southeast of Islamabad in May. Police said his body showed signs of torture.

While working as the Pakistan bureau chief for the Hong Kong-based "Asia Times Online," Shahzad had gone missing just two days after he wrote an article asserting that Al-Qaeda had carried out an attack on a naval air base in Karachi to avenge the arrest of navy officers suspected of links with the terrorist organization.

RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reported that Shahzad had allegedly complained of threats by Pakistan's powerful intelligence services before he was killed.

Shahzad's murder sparked outrage around the world. Washington's top military commander at the time, U.S. Admiral Michael Mullen, said the killing was "sanctioned" by the Pakistani government, a comment that strained U.S.-Pakistani ties.

RFE/RL Reporter Among The Dead

Also among the journalists remembered in Washington was Rafiq Tagi, a prominent writer and freelance reporter for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.

The 61-year-old died in hospital days after being stabbed by an unknown assailant in Baku in November.
Rafiq Tagi was a critic of political Islam.
Rafiq Tagi was a critic of political Islam.

A critic of political Islam in Azerbaijan and the theocratic regime in Iran, Tagi said before he died from his wounds that he thought the attack was related to an article he had written about human rights in the Islamic republic.

Khadzhimurad Kamalov, a prominent journalist in Russia's North Caucasian republic of Daghestan, was also included on the memorial list.

The 46-year-old was editor and publisher of the "Chernovik" weekly, which had reported extensively on police abuses in the fight against an Islamist insurgency originating in neighboring Chechnya, which has since spread across the region.

He was killed in December outside the newspaper's office when a masked assailant fired at him.

With this year's additions, there are now 2,156 journalists honored on the Washington memorial, the first death dating from 1837.

Written by Richard Solash in Washington with RFE/RL reports
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