While the security and military forces were chasingreporters and detaining them when covering Al-Basrah City protests, early this month, enraged protesters set four mediainstitutions on fire, more than 15 reporters and media assistants were beaten and detained by the Iraqi security forces when they were covering angryprotestsfor lack of services, authority’s poor management, and demand to improve the quality of drinking water in the coastal city overlooking the Arabian Gulf.
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) recorded field testimonies of journalists who were coercively apprehended, and some others were beaten by the security forces there. The JFO documented the extent of the lossessuffered by the local media institutionsdue to the complete destruction and burning,as reporters revealed that the security forces, in cooperation with armed groups, began “chasing reporters who were covering the protests in Al-Basrah Province, and attempted to apprehend them.”
JFO documented 15 cases of assault by the security forces against reporters who were covering angry protests, and angry demonstrators attacked the offices of four media institutions and set them on fire;Al-Iraqia Chanel, Al-NakheelRadio, Al-Ghadeer Chanel, and Al-Furat Chanel.
In regard toassaults on reporters by the security forces; on September 01, 2018, Reuters photographer Isam Al-Sudani, Dijla Chanel photographer Safa’ Ghali, BBC photographer Ala Al-Fukaiki, Basrah Press Agency correspondent Shihab Ahmed, and Reuters photographer Hamad Al-Fartusi, were detained for several hours, and the same security forces attacked Al-Wala’ Chanel work team and correspondent Fu’ad Al-Halfi, and smashed their equipment.
On September 02, 2018, sporadic assaults on reporters and press teams were recorded, including the security forces’ assault on the Associated Press photographer Nabeel Al-Jurani, and Al-Marbad Radio correspondent, as well as the detention of media man Bassam Al-Sudani for more than 12 hours at an unofficial security center.
Isam Al-Sudani; Reuters photographer in Al-Basrah, told JFO that he was detained twice by the security forces while covering angry protests, and all photographs of the protests were erased “in order not to be published to the public opinion.”
Al-Sudani added that most field reporters were afraid of beating by the security forces, and afraid from the angry protesters who believed that the press media was not shedding light on their demonstrations in Al-Basrah Province.
Shihab Ahmed, Basrah Press correspondent, unveiled the abuses that the field media teams suffered from, and said, “We were abused verbally and physically by the security forces, and we were directly targeted by hot peppers and tear gas,” and there was resentment among the demonstrators because they were expecting more coverage from us.
Haydar Al-Mozani, Al-Marbad Radio correspondent, told JFO, “The people of Basrah dislike press men who don’t publish events and facts as they are, that is the reason behind assaulting some reporters and media institutions.”
Saeed Al-Badri, the Chief of the South Office of Al-Ghadeer Chanel, described the sabotage and destruction of “our” channel, holding “Al-Basrah Operations Command and the province’s police, liable for the burning and damaging the mediainstitutions.”
Al-Badri also informed JFO that “Al-Ghadeer Channel Office, which covers five southern provinces, was completely burned with its equipment, devices, and studios, in addition of burning Satellite News Gathering (SNG) vehicle in its entirety.” He added, “The security cameras of the channel recorded the deliberateburning and vandalism perpetrated by masked men who were bluntly wreaking and burning the channel.”
In this context, reporter Muntadher Al-Karkushi spoke with JFO saying, “Al-Basrah demonstrations recorded the highest in violating the rights of field journalists since 2003.”
In Baghdad, JFO met with journalists who ran away from Basrah due to threats by armed groups.
A reporter, who works for a foreign press media, reported that the authorities in Basrah began cooperating with armed groups associated to political parties to detain journalists, who covered the protests, along with participant activists.
Basrah witnessed mass protests for several days asking for services, mainly for potable water and electricity, which led to the killing and wounding tens of demonstrators.
During the protests, the offices and headquarters of the majority of political parties were burned, along with the burning of the Iranian Consulate building and the Province Diwan’s Guest House.
As JFO condemns all the abuses of the journalists and media organizations, it warns of any fabrications that lead to chase journalists who took part in covering the protests, based on the information that JFO has received. The JFO urges the new Iraqi Parliament to undertake active procedures to protect journalists and put an end to chasing them by influential political parties in cooperation with the Iraqi security services.