Following the attack on several media outlets in Baghdad on Saturday 5 October 2019, the UNESCO Office for Iraq was invited by the country’s Minister of Interior, H.E. Yassin al-Yasiri, to attend a special meeting with Iraqi media managers and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate.
During the meeting, the Minister provided information on the dynamics of the attacks on media newsrooms and on other attacks against journalists and media professionals covering the recent demonstrations. UNESCO expressed its deep concern for these attacks on Iraqi journalists and media.
26Attacks on journalists
14Media workers impeded from covering protests
The UNESCO-supported national monitoring mechanism of attacks against journalists confirmed 26 attacks on journalists and 14 cases of media workers being impeded from covering protests in Baghdad and provinces around the country. Furthermore, three satellite channels have been closed by the Iraq National Communication and Media Commission (CMC), and the offices of four TV stations have been raided by unidentified armed groups, causing serious damages.
During the meeting, media representatives called the Ministry of Interior to assure protection for local and international media institutions in Iraq. Mr Al-Yasiri, expressed his ministry's readiness to provide such special protection by dispatching security forces to any media that is threatened or at risk. He also invited all media to communicate with the Iraqi National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which was formed at the order of the Prime Minister in 2016.Mr Al-Yasiri also advised that he had directed the Special Investigative Unit for the Protection of Journalists to communicate with journalists and media workers who are attacked or in need of protection. He stressed that this unit is already conducting investigations into the attacks that have affected media over the past days. The Special Investigative Unit is part of the Ministry of the Interior, and was formed with the support of UNESCO through a project funded by the Dutch government.
The UNESCO Office for Iraq in Baghdad has been spearheading the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, in close cooperation with the Iraqi authorities, media representatives, as well as national and international specialized NGOs.
Under the project "Breaking the Silence: Enhancing Public Accountability on Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists in Iraq," UNESCO has also supported radio programmes focusing on the safety of journalists (e.g. "Media and Security"), and established the "5555" hotline, dedicated to the protection of journalists, in cooperation with CMC and the Ministry of Interior.According to UNESCO’s Observatory of Killed Journalists, Iraq has been one of the most dangerous countries for media professionals, with at least 193 journalists killed since 1993.