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New attempt by police to intimidate journalists

27 August 2004
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the brief detention yesterday in Najaf of some 60 journalists who were taken to police headquarters in the city and accused by the police chief of failing to tell the truth.

"This behaviour by the police constitutes a serious violation of press freedom and is utterly incompatible with the democratic principles advocated by your government for the construction of a new Iraq," the organisation said in a letter to interior minister Falah Al-Naqib.

Asking the minister to explain the reasons for this police operation and ensure it is not repeated, Reporters Without Borders pointed out that, "this is not the first time the Iraqi police have behaved in this way with the aim of intimidating the news media and preventing them from working in a normal manner."

According to Agence France Presse, whose correspondent was one of the journalists detained, around 12 armed police officers - some masked - went to the Bahr al-Najaf hotel in Najaf, ordered all the journalists present to assemble and escorted them to the local police headquarters where police chief Ghaleb al-Jazairi voiced displeasure about their coverage of events in Iraq and told them they were not reporting the "truth."

Some accounts highlighted the violent way the journalists were detained, with the police reportedly entering some of their rooms and firing shots in the air.

In a previous incident of this kind in Najaf, the police chief on 15 August told journalists the government had issued an order that they should leave the city at once, prompting Reporters Without Borders to condemn "the imposition of a news blackout." There were reports of threats and violence by the Iraqi police and Mohammad Kazem, an Iraqi journalist working for the Iranian Arabic-language TV station Al-Alam, was arrested.

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