Journalists in Iraq are facing an increasingly dangerous situation. The overall level of violence has increased, leading some to believe that the country is sliding back into the bloodiest days of the past decade. The latest assaults are a new phase in a vicious campaign by Al Qaeda backed militants against journalists. For a journalist, the only place in the world more dangerous than Iraq these days is Syria, where a civil war is raging out of control.
The recent surge of violence in Iraq has been deadly for journalists in the country. In the past three months, at least five other journalists have been killed. Several journalists have been shot dead at close range in recent weeks and militants have sustained a fearsome assault on the headquarters of a local TV news station in Tikrit using five suicide bombers. At a building where a state television channel had a bureau, fire engulfed the upper floors as attackers seized hostages and battled security forces. In the end, the attackers either blew themselves up or were killed by the security forces.
Abu Mohamed, a reporter with the local station, called his family to say goodbye as the attack unfolded. In an interview, he said, “I told them, we are trapped inside the building and I don’t know if I will survive. A few minutes later two gunmen came in and took our phones and shouted at us, demanding that we stay in our rooms. They wore black masks and carried machine guns and hand grenades.” The reporter survived, but at least five of his colleagues did not.
The latest violence has been shocking and took many journalists by surprise. In recent years, the circumstances for journalists in the country had begun to improve. Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists did not report any “work-related fatalities” among journalists in Iraq for the first time since 2003.