According to statements issued by the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) and the Society to Defend Press Freedom in Iraq (SDPFI), Mazin Jasim al-Ka'bi, a cameraman for the al-Furat satellite channel was beaten, insulted, and had weapons pointed directly at him by the guards of the president of an advocacy organization that supports political prisoners in Iraq. On Saturday, the cameraman visited the Diwaniya branch office of the Institute of Political Prisoners in Iraq to film a news conference with the organization’s president, Salah al-Sifani, which his channel had been invited to cover, along with at least four other Iraqi television networks.
The cameraman put a microphone with the al-Furat logo in place and set to filming, but al-Sifani’s guards objected to the logo’s presence. The guards proceeded to shove him, insult him, and then strike him forcefully with their rifle butts, al-Ka'bi told SDPFI. The guards also threw his equipment to the ground, he said.
The organization’s president saw the altercation but did not intervene, al-Ka'bi told the JFO, which also released a statement condemning the assault. JFO writes that other journalists came to his aid to release him. The al-Furat cameraman withdrew from covering the conference and left the scene.
Al-Ka'bi expressed astonishment to the JFO that the president of an organization that defends the rights of political prisoners “whose freedom of expression has been violated,” could have allowed his guards to treat a journalist in such a manner.
Parliament detains journalists, confiscates equipment
The same day, approximately 35 Iraqi journalists were held in the halls of the Iraqi Parliament and their equipment confiscated by parliamentary guards in a move to prevent them from covering a verbal dispute between representatives of the minority Shabak community.
When the verbal altercation broke out between MP Hanin Qadu, an Iraqi Shabak, and representatives of the Shabak Advisory Association, the media bureau of the Parliament shut journalists who had attempted to cover the dispute inside the Parliament building, cutting off Internet access for those attempting to transmit the story, and forbidding any video or audio recording.
Omar al-Hamadi, a Radio Sawa correspondent, told the JFO that Parliament guards attempted to confiscate recording equipment, and threatened journalists to either hand over their cassettes or have their equipment smashed.
Both the JFO and the SDPFI condemned the detention of journalists inside the parliament hall, the efforts to block them from covering the dispute in the hall, and the threats and confiscations against journalists’ equipment.
The two incidents came just one day after the assassination of Diyar Abbas Ahmad, a correspondent for the Eye news agency in Kirkuk. That deadly attack was mourned and deplored by Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists as well as by Iraqi press rights groups.