Abdul-Wahab's murder latest in series of deaths

BAGHDAD — What with one reporter killed, a group of reporters booted out of parliament, another facing censure for writing a “critical” story and a new report on the harassment of journalists in Kurdistan, it’s been another tough week for media in Iraq.

Most shocking event was the murder of Sarwa Abdul-Wahab, 36, a freelance contributor for Iraqi news website Muraslon, in the northern city of Mosul.

Although accounts of the grisly killing differ, the common thread is that  Abdul-Wahab was suddenly surrounded by gunmen in a street in Mosul and shot dead.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the reporter was killed after resisting a kidnapping attempt, but the Iraq-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory said unidentified gunmen ordered her sister, who was with her, to move away before opening fire on Abdul-Wahab, killing her on the spot.

At least 127 journalists and 50 media workers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003, according to the CPJ.

As if a killing was not enough, Iraqi journalists working for satellite channel Iraqi al-Diyar were prevented access to covering parliamentary proceedings on Monday, according to the JFO.

The media watchdog said parliament guards forbade correspondents of the network from entering the premises and threatened to confiscate their cameras and equipment if they ever returned.

Parliament’s media officer Ahmad al-Yasari reportedly said al-Diyar’s coverage was to blame for the ban and that the channel focused mainly on the negative aspects only without covering the “achievements realized by the MPs.”

Other reports quoted al-Yasari as saying the decision was based on unspecified “organizational decisions.”

The JFO also reported that elected officials in a southern Iraqi governorate of Diwaniya are discussing banning an Iraqi journalist working for U.S.-funded satcaster al-Hurra.

It said the members of the Diwaniya provincial council met Tuesday to discuss options for banning Maytham al-Shaybani from performing his work after he filed a critical report about public services in the province.

The officials drafted a letter to the channel, which broadcasts in Arabic throughout Iraq, demanding that the correspondent be replaced.

The CPJ, meanwhile, which conducted a two-week fact-finding mission in Iraqi Kurdistan in the fall of 2007, this week published a report highlighting the increase in attacks against and arrests of journalists in the region.

“At least three journalists have been seized and assaulted by suspected (regional) government agents or sympathizers, while a number of other reporters have been roughed up and harassed,” the report said.

“To date, no one has been arrested for the attacks, and officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the semi-autonomous governing authority, have yet to provide answers.

“Critical journalists who have spoken out against Kurdish leaders have been detained by security forces and prosecuted under Baath-era criminal laws that prescribe steep penalties. In the past year, the KRG parliament has pushed for harsh new legislation that would set heavy new fines and allow the government to close newspapers,” the report said.

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