Iraqi Reporters Resign, Go Into Hiding After Receiving Death Threats From Iran-Backed Militias

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September 16, 2020

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On September 13, 2020, the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya Network website reported that journalists employed in Iraq by Jordan-based Dijlah Television have resigned and gone into hiding amid a campaign of threats. The threats are in response to the broadcasting of a concert on the network's music channel, Dijlah Tarab, during Ashura, when Shi'ites mark the day that Al-Hussein, the grandson of Muhammad, was killed in Karbala.[1] Broadcasting on the solemn day was viewed as an offence to Shi'ites.

On August 31, one day after airing of the concert, protesters linked to Iran-backed militias in Iraq stormed and torched the Dijlah Television office in Baghdad, accusing the station of insulting the Ashura processions by playing music during the event. On the same day, an arrest warrant was issued for the channel owner and Sunni politician Jamal Karabouli, for committing a religious offense in the eyes of the Iraqi Penal Code.[2]


Torching of Dijlah office in Baghdad (Source: Twitter.com, August 31, 2020)

The Al-Arabyia report said that a number of journalists employed by Dijlah TV received death threats, despite having submitted their resignations following the incident. Among the resigning reporters were Diwaniyah-based Zaid Al-Fatlawi, Najaf-based reporter Karar Al-Assaf, and Waset-based reporter Ali Muhammad.

The report noted that there had been incitements to violence against these reporters on social media, adding that some users had demanded that security forces refuse to provide the journalists with protection, and that they be arrested if they ever practice journalism again.

Zaid Al-Fatlawi told Al-Arabiya that the incitement campaign was launched by media outlets affiliated with Shi'ite militias, and followed the attack on the broadcaster's office in Baghdad. "Sabreen News, a Telegram channel affiliated with the groups that carried out the arson, assassinations, and incitement, wrote: 'Dijlah TV correspondents must resign, and if they do not, we will show them who the supporters of Hussein are," said Al-Fatlawi.


Sabreen News shared a video of a Dijlah reporter in Basra with a comment reading: "'The door is open for Dijlah staff to resign and denounce [their offense.]" (Source: Telegram, August 31, 2020.)

 

"We submitted our resignations, but the next day rumors were spread by pro-militia [social media] pages that the resignations are fake and that we are collaborating in a scheme sponsored by the channel to carry out acts of sabotage in southern cities," he said, adding that a new wave of incitement to violence was launched by these social media outlets, asking residents in southern cities to punish anyone who works for Dijlah TV.

"Three gunmen paid a visit to a local news agency office, where I also work, but is not affiliated with Dijla, and asked my colleagues for my home address and phone number. And although my colleagues sent CCTV footage of the three gunmen to the police, no action was taken against them," he explained.

The two other reporters, Al-Assaf and Muhammad, confirmed to Al-Arabyia that they are still receiving death threats despite their resignation and their stated disapproval of the channel's decision to air music during Ashura.

Poster disseminated by pro-Iran social media accounts depicting Imam Al-Hussien's killers holding a flag with the Dijlah TV logo (Source: Twitter.com, August 31, 2020)

In the past few months, several Iraqi activists and outspoken journalists were killed or kidnapped by unidentified gunmen who are believed to be affiliated with Iran-backed militias. Iraqi research analyst Husham Al-Hashimi was among those targeted.[3]


[1] Alarabiya.net, September 13, 2020.

[2] Twitter.com, DijlahTv, August 31, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

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