- March 19 marks Operation Iraqi Freedom's 9th anniversary.
Brutal occupation continues. Thousands of US forces remain.
- Obama's alleged pullout repositioned troops nearby and
left many there. Moreover, an army of paramilitary killers infest the country.
- Overall conditions are grim, including millions of refugees,
mass poverty and deprivation, rampant human rights and civil liberty abuses,
and lack of basic services, including clean water, sanitation, electricity,
health care and education.
- Daily violence, chaos, terror, environmental toxins,
and unmet human needs also punish Iraqis. So do lawless detentions, torture,
lack of press and other freedoms, and daily misery. America destroyed the
cradle of civilization. It no longer exists. The loss is incalculable.
- Lack of press freedom alone is troubling. In February
2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report titled, "At a Crossroads:
Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years after the US-Led Invasion."
- Topics covered included targeting female leaders and
activists, human trafficking and forced prostitution, family violence,
torturing detainees, refugees including internally displaced ones, the
invisible impacts of war, and suppression of freedom including against
- HRW's section headlined, "Harassment, Threats, and
Assaults against Journalists" discussed "numerous abuses"
they face for exposing corruption and other official wrongdoing.
- Journalists doing it face enormous risks. Two television
presenter critics were "beaten by security officials on different
occasions over the past two years." A cameraman was dragged from his
car and assaulted.
- Others are arrested or receive death threats. One journalist
said he received them dozens of times. One dated September 24, 2009 read:
- "We will behead those who contribute to the perversion
and corruptition of the lands of Islam."
- Another said, "Dig your grave, sew your death shroud,
and write your will. Be prepared for your fate of death."
- After publishing a 2006 article on high-level Basra city
council corruption, death threats forced a local journalist into hiding
for his safety. He "paid a high price" for writing truthfully.
- Other journalists told HRW that Baghdad and Basra security
forces prevent them from filming or taking photographs in public. Terror
attack sites are especially sensitive. On May 13, 2007, the Interior Ministry
banned photographing bombing scenes. Allegedly it's to let police secure
affected areas and help victims. In fact, it's to suppress truth.
- During January 2009 provincial elections, journalists
were prevented from entering polling stations, detained, beaten, and had
their equipment confiscated and destroyed.
- According to Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO)
member Ziad, "The biggest problem that journalists have to deal with
in Iraq is the dictatorship mindset of security officials."
- Security forces are "terrified" by cameras.
"Iraq is a police state and the police here do not understand freedom
- According to New York Times photographer Joao Silva:
- Iraqis know "the power of photographic images, and
they know that if there are no photographs of a bomb, it has far less impact
abroad." It's "definitely a culture of 'See No Evil.' "
- Journalists also told HRW they're prevented from filming
"non-contentious public sites." Those trying are harassed, assaulted,
detained, tortured, and lose their equipment.
- Amnesty International (AI) on Human Rights in Iraq
- In its 2011 report, AI found "disturbing evidence
of targeted attacks on political activists, torture and other ill-treatment
of people arrested in connection with protests, and attacks or threats
against journalists, media outlets, government critics, academics and students."
- It reported deplorable conditions overall, including
abuses and killings by armed groups, detention without trial, torture and
ill-treatment, deaths in custody, persecuting former Ba'ath party officials,
"serious" human rights violations by US forces, violence against
women and girls, millions still living as refugees, 1,300 prisoners on
death row, and another 279 sentenced to death.
- Throughout the occupation, US forces are especially culpable.
Their mission includes targeting journalists. In 2005, CNN's then news
division head, Eason Jordan, admitted during a Davos, Switzerland panel
discussion that "he knew of about 12 journalists who had not only
been killed by American troops, but had been targeted as a matter of policy."
- Damage control tried to whitewash his comments. Clear
evidence supports them. Stating them publicly cost him his job. Earlier,
BBC's Kate Adie told Radio One Ireland that independent journalists are
targeted. They still are.
- In 2003, US forces killed journalists at Baghdad's Palestine
Hotel. At the same time, the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi
TV were targeted for broadcasting graphic footage.
- In 2005, Italian journalist Guiliana Sgrena was abducted
and held hostage. Italian intelligence officers helped free her. En route
to Baghdad International Airport heading home, US forces targeted them.
- Nicola Calipari, a military intelligence major general
was killed. Sgrena and another officer were wounded but escaped alive.
At the time, an international outcry followed the incident.
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Press Freedom in Iraq
- In August 2010, RSF published a report titled, "The
Iraq War: A Heavy Death Toll for the Media: 2003 - 2010." It called
it "the most lethal for journalists since World War II."
- From March 2003 - August 2010, 230 died. Virtually no
- Iraq's also "the world's biggest market for hostages."
Over the same period, 93 journalists and other media professionals were
abducted. At least 42 were executed. Another 14 remain missing.
- Worse still, US forces arbitrarily and illegally target,
arrest, detain, and kill independent journalists. They still do.
- RSF's report "pay(s) homage to all of the media
professionals who gave their lives in order to keep the public informed,
despite the risks they were taking."
- They indeed paid dearly. So have Iraqis. War, occupation,
and repression "were nothing short of disastrous."
- Journalists still face harassment, assaults, detention
or death for doing their job. America's southern Iraq Camp Bucca is the
Middle East's largest prison for journalists.
- On the same day RSF's report was published, gunmen killed
Al Iraqiya TV journalist Riyad Assariyeh as he left home.
- On January 7, 2012, RSF listed the 10 most dangerous
places for journalists in 2011. Overall, 66 were killed, 1,044 arrested,
1,959 assaulted or threatened, 499 censored, and 71 kidnapped. Naming Pakistan
the year's deadliest country for journalists, it said one-third of those
killed were Middle East-based.
- RSF also listed nations where journalists face the most
extreme censorship and violence. The top 10 included Bahrain, Ivory Coast,
Egypt, occupied Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria under siege, and
Yemen. Clearly, Iraq's among the most violent and dangerous annually.
- As a result, many journalists fled for their safety.
Some went to other Middle East countries Others sought asylum in Europe.
- Russia Today Highlights the Iraq Problem
- On January 7, Russia Today headlined, "Silent spring:
Press gagged over Iraqi protests," saying:
- Press freedom's "a long way off in a country where
journalists say they are routinely imprisoned, beaten or simply killed
by" US and state security forces.
- Like elsewhere across the region, Iraqis also began protesting
for freedom and social justice. However, journalists "trying to cover
their protests were all but silenced by government security forces."
- HRW's deputy director Joe Stark called journalists an
"endangered species" in today's Iraq, adding:
- "There seems to be a high level of intolerance for
dissent, or for public criticism of either government policies, or of particular
- Freelance journalist Yousif Al-Timimi said security forces
targeted him for doing his job, saying:
- "Three or four or five riot police were around me.
One of them slapped me in the head. Another one kicked me in the butt,
and they kinda grabbed me fast."
- Thanks to help from two foreign journalists, he managed
to escape, but stopped covering protests for his safety.
- "It became hard for journalists to" try. He
stopped because he's afraid of being arrested and mistreated.
- Other Baghdad journalists were afraid to appear on camera.
In northern Kurdish areas, RT's Sebastian Meyer interviewed Ahmen, a photographer
arrested for covering similar protests. Held for four days, he was tortured.
- "....(S)ix men came to the room and started to shout
at me and beat me with cables. Then they electrocuted me. They wanted me
to admit that I hadn't been at the protests."
- After release, a friend photographed his wounds and published
them in a local magazine. Ahmed was again arrested and punished.
- Afraid of reprisals, he requested his face be blurred
in video footage and name changed.
- In Baghdad, "government spokesman Ali Dabbagh (told)
RT that" Iraqi officials suppress free press coverage, saying:
- Press freedom "is not protected by the government.
The government is against anything and you can see that there are people
in the Ministry of the Interior, for example, they are misusing their power
against citizens and against journalists. They keep accounts and some of
them have been fired."
- RT concluded saying that nearly nine years after America
showed up, credible press freedom's absent. So is democratic governance
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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