Baghdad, May 3 (AKnews) - Violent attacks against journalists in Iraq shot up by 55 per cent this year, statistics from the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in Baghdad revealed on yesterday.
On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, Ziad al-Ujaili, the Executive Director of the organization told AKnews that violence has reached its highest level recorded, with 12 Iraqi journalists killed since 3 May 2010.
"This indicates the almost complete absence of press freedom in all cities across the country, including the Kurdistan region," he said.
"The journalists and their media institutions were subjected to fierce attacks led by special security forces in the Iraqi government, which illegally raided TV channels and media organizations to fight, what they claim as, threats by the independent media.
According to the 2011 annual report of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, seen by AKnews, "the escalation of organized violence against journalists by the security agencies and government authorities made journalists fear imprisonment or intentional harm just for carry out their jobs. Normal operations now look impossible in the face of military and security orders that prevent journalists from taking photos or moving around without the prior approval of the authorities.
"The government has succeeded in the suppression of news on several occasions, most notably the coverage for the public protests against the lack of services in several Iraqi cities."
Rahman Gharib, the representative of the observatory in the Kurdistan Region said: "372 attacks have targeted journalists and media professionals since 3 May last year, and most of them took place in Kurdistan. The number has increased with the growing popular demonstrations in the region and the accompanying media coverage.
"The security authorities also closed nine media institutions, and one of them is still closed now. In addition to that 11 institutions were raided."
The lawyer and media expert Hassan Shaaban told AKnews: "Any restrictions on press freedom will be a violation for the most important principles of human rights, those of freedom of expression and press freedom. Moral objections and national security must not be used as pretexts to justify the suppression of these freedoms.
"The media agencies must be completely independent of all types of government censorship. After the fall of the former regime in 2003, Iraqi society changed completely and the permanent Iraqi constitution was ratified in 2005. These freedoms and rights were listed within Part II, specifically with regard to the media and the press in Article 38.
According to the Iraqi Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, 247 journalists and media workers have lost their lives in their line of duty since the 2003 US-led allied invasion of Iraq.
By Bashar al-Mandalawi