Dozens of journalists in Iraq’s southern city of Basra have launched a campaign to highlight the dangers they face following the murder of two reporters amid continuing anti-government protests.
Ahmad Abdelsamad, a 39-year-old correspondent for local television station Dijla, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 37, were killed near a police station late on Friday in Basra. A group of armed men in a 4×4 vehicle approached their car and opened fire, according to witnesses.
Shihab Ahmed, a Basra-based journalist, told Al Jazeera there was a growing sense of fear among journalists in the city and across Iraq, where at least five journalists have been killed since protests began in October
“We started a social media campaign to encourage all journalists to boycott security officials and government representatives until a thorough investigation into the killings is complete,” said Ahmed, referring to a campaign called “I Am Next”.
“This [killing of the two reporters] wasn’t a one-off incident. Journalists have been and will continue to be targeted to silence them.
Amid calls to join the campaign, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior invited journalists to a conference in Basra on Sunday to discuss the city’s security situation and the killings.
But journalists refused to attend, forcing the authorities to cancel the event.
“We boycotted the conference because there is no use in attending. They will not share details or information about the incident, so why should we attend,” explained Ahmed.
Like Ahmed, 25-year-old Maher Kareem told Al Jazeera he boycotted the event because the identity of Abdelsamad and Ghali’s killers had not been revealed.
“All of Basra’s journalists refused to attend the conference and we will continue to boycott [the authorities] until we know who killed them [Abdelsamad and Ghali],” Kareem told Al Jazeera.
“I fear for my life. Today it was Safaa and Ahmed. Tomorrow it might be me,” he added.
Following the incident, Khalid Muhanna, spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, told Al Jazeera that an investigation into Friday’s killings was under way.
“We condemn the assassination of the two journalists, Safaa and Ahmed, and have ordered an investigation into the incident. We must bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Muhanna.
But journalists across the country said more needed to be done.
“The targeting of journalists has had a deep impact on press freedoms and freedom of expression in Iraq,” said Ibrahim Al-Sarraj, head of Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association (IJRDA), based in capital Baghdad.
“A transparent investigation into these crimes is only a first step towards preventing further violence against us,” he said.