Thursday, February 24, 2011

Journalistic Freedoms Observatory attacked in Baghdad

The Iraqi JFO is never really far from the headlines. Either they are breaking news in the country, sending reporters out to the frontlines, or rallying cries for freedom of expression. For those of us who have grown up in societies that value and respect the freedom of expression, it's not surprising that it is difficult to imagine not being able to speak your mind.

The JFO played their part in the establishment of a new Iraq in an uncertain post-Saddam era. Having worked with the Voices of Iraq for many years now, I greatly respect the sacrifices that the JFO has had to make over the years to spread the story of every-day Iraqis. When I read of the attack on their central hub, which resulted in the loss of years of work, I was speechless. Such egregious violations of freedom of expression and attempts to hinder its use should be stopped in their tracks. I stand alongside all the employees and beneficiaries of the JFO in saying that I hope the criminals responsible for this are caught swiftly.


Armed raid on "Reporters Without Borders" partner organization in Iraq

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Reporters Without Borders has strongly condemned an armed raid on Wednesday on the Baghdad headquarters of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), its partner organization in Iraq, in which all of the JFO’s computers and archives were stolen.

“A dozen gunmen belonging to private security forces burst into our office near Al-Fardous Square in central Baghdad on Wednesday morning,” JFO Director Ziyad Al-Ajili said.

“They broke down doors and took all the equipment – four laptops, three hard disks, two cameras, two video cameras, walkie-talkies and 10 bulletproof jackets marked Press,” he added.

“They also took all of the JFO’s archives. All of our work since 2004 has disappeared. And before leaving, they vandalized the entire office. The government is behind this attack. The JFO is fighting for media freedom to become a reality in Iraq and, as such, clearly poses a threat to the authorities,” he noted.

Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General, Jean-Fran├žois Julliard, said “the aim of this criminal raid was to silence an NGO that has been fighting for years for the right of Iraqi journalists to work freely and independently. It has not hesitated to condemn the abuses of the security forces and has often reminded the authorities of their responsibilities.
“We call for an independent investigation into this attack so that those behind it can be arrested and brought to justice. Impunity must no longer be the rule in Iraq, which is a country that aspires to be a democracy.”
"This (Wednesday) morning’s raid came 48 hours before Iraqi journalists are due to hold a big demonstration to press the authorities to fulfil their constitutional obligations to respect free speech and media freedom."
Since its creation in 2004, the JFO has played a key role in defending freedom of expression in Iraq.

Read online here.

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