Iraqi journalists covering the worsening fuel crisis in a southern Iraqi province were physically assaulted and insulted on two separate instances over two days by Iraqi forces under the command of the Iraqi oil ministry, according to an Iraqi media rights organization’s statements in Arabic.
Just one day after the Society to Defend Press Freedom in Iraq (SDPFI) denounced a violation against a photographer and correspondent for the paper “Wasit Weekly” in the city of Kut on Sunday, the organization released a second statement condemning another violation against Iraqi journalists by the same Oil Pipeline protection forces.
On Sunday, the correspondent for the al-Furat channel, Riyad al-'Ugayli informed the SDPFI that a team from Wasit Weekly, an Arabic-language publication in Kut city, including correspondent Ahmad al-Kursan and the photographer Ali al-Shumari, sought to conduct an interview with the director of fuel storage in the province, but that pipeline guards blocked them from entering the storehouse, using foul language and insults.
The guards then confiscated al-Kursan and al-Shumari’s cameras and mobile phones, SDPFI adds, and then pushed the two journalists and grabbed them by their clothes to expel them from the facility.
The al-Furat reporter added that he and other correspondents for the al-Baghdadiya, al-Huriya, al-Sumeriya, and al-Iraqiya channels attempted to interview the director but were also forbidden by the pipeline guards, who ordered them to “go back to where they came from.”
On Monday, SDPFI released its second statement in two days regarding events in Kut city, writing that, “just one day after their violation of journalists of Wasit Weekly, members of the Oil Pipeline Protection Forces committed violations against the al-Ghadir satellite channel in Kut.”
Sa’ad al-Mousawi contacted the SDPFI on Monday to inform the group that he and his photographer Haydar al-Rabi'i were filming queues of cars lining up at a fuel station in Kut while preparing a report on the worsening fuel crisis in the province.
Although the two journalists were working at a 50-meter distance from the fuel station,pipeline guards “attacked them” with “severe blows from their hands, feet, and rifle butts,” preventing them from filming the scene at the station, and using foul language and insults, according to the media group’s statement.
The journalists suffered wounds and bruises all over their bodies, SDPFI writes.
In its two separate statements, the press rights watchdog condemns the attacks at Kut’s oil installations which it says were targeted to prevent journalists from obtaining information, while holding the Iraqi oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani, “completely responsible” for the “recklessness” and “excess” with which the ministry’s forces treated journalists, in the words of the SDPFI, citing the repeated violations and the watchdog’s “continuing demands.”
The SDPFI “deplores” the “indifference” with which official Iraqi agencies regard violations against journalists, it writes, expressing “astonishment” at “the lack of commitment by Iraqi government agencies to the constitution and the government orders that guarantee the freedom of the press and the media.”