Newsletter No 4 25 October 2005
Press Freedom:
Latest Press Freedom News from the Region

» In Iraq, Mohammed Haroon, 47, publisher of the weekly newspaper Al-Qadiya and secretary-general of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, was shot to death on 19 October by unknown gunmen as he was driving in Baghdad. According to reports, Haroon had recently been threatened and told to resign his position at the syndicate. The syndicate is among a small number of professional press associations in Iraq.

The war in Iraq is the deadliest for the press since the end of World War II, with a total of 73 journalists and media assistants killed since the start of the war in March 2003, and a total of 25 killed since the start of this year. Two TV cameramen are also still missing in Iraq: Frédéric Nérac of Britain’s ITV News, missing since 22 March 2003, and Isam Hadi Muhsin Al-Shumary of Germany’s Suedostmedia, missing since 15 August 2004.

Also in Iraq, journalists have reportedly come under fire from U.S. and Iraqi forces at checkpoints near the International Zone in Baghdad.

On the morning of October 3, Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi and her driver came under fire from U.S. troops at Checkpoint 3, the only access to the International Zone for media. A couple of hours later on the same day, National Public Radio senior producer J.J. Sutherland and his driver came under fire at the same location.

Journalists have reported several similar incidents involving members of the media that have occurred in recent weeks at U.S. checkpoints near the International Zone. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has sent a letter to the U.S. general in charge of coalition forces in Iraq, General Casey, expressing its alarm concerning these incidents.

» In Somalia, Awale Jama, editor in chief at a privately-owned radio station, the Somalia TV Network (STN), was detained for a second time in Bossasso (Putland region) and subjected to severe physical mistreatment at the end of September after he criticized conditions in the jail, according to reports issued on 18 October.

His arrest, on 26 September, came after he gave an account on the air of his earlier detention in June and July. He was reportedly beaten by policemen following his arrest. When STN manager Abdisarak Shek Adun tried to visit Salad at the police station, he was turned away and told he would be arrested if he came back. Salad was transferred on 27 September to the headquarters of the Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS). When transferred to intelligence headquarters on 27 September, Salad was put in a small, poorly ventilated room with open toilets along with some 70 other ordinary detainees, including suspected murderers, thieves and drug traffickers. Salad was finally released on 28 September following pressure from national and international organizations.

Both Salad and Adun had been arrested on 30 June and detained for nearly two weeks as a result of an interview STN broadcast with a candidate for the post of Bossasso mayor. At the same time, several municipal council members were reportedly arrested after having releases broadcast on STN. The two journalists were finally freed on 12 July following a presidential pardon.

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has said that these abuses are designed to send journalists a clear message that they should tone down their criticism of the government, police and civil service.

» In Yemen, the editor in chief of the NewsYemen website, Nabil Al Sufi, has received death threats following a smear campaign allegedly launched by the office of Sheikh Abdul Majid Al Zindani after the publication of a report in the website about US accusations of al Zindani financing terrorism.

Al Zindani, head of the Islah party’s Shura Council, accused al Sufi of contributing to a foreign campaign against him. As Al Zindani’a words are considered by his supporters as a religious fatwa or edict, mosques’ preachers started attacking al Sufi. As a consequence, the journalist has received death threats 0n his mobile phone.

The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate has expressed its solidarity with Al Sufi and his website team. They believe that the statement of Sheikh Al Zindani’s office instigates hatred against journalists.

Sources for the alerts:
Arab Press Freedom Watch (AFPW), London
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels, Belgium
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), Canada
International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna, Austria
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), France