Iraqi security officials have said they were investigating the killings, the most recent on November 24, but have not arrested or charged anyone in connection with the attacks.
At the same time, Iraqi prosecutors have stepped up criminal prosecutions of journalists for defamation and have increased other harassment of journalists. Iraqi authorities have released no information about the results of any pending investigations into the killings, nor announced any arrests.
The killings follow years of targeted violence against journalists in Iraq. According to the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, 48 journalists in Mosul have been killed in violence since In the latest killing, on November 24 unidentified assailants using automatic weapons shot and killed Alaa Edward Butros, a Christian journalist for al-Rashid television news service, as he sat in a coffee shop in the al-Majmua al-Thaqafeyya area north of Mosul.
Gunmen shot and killed three other journalists in Mosul in October. Gunmen also killed two spokespersons for the Ninewa governor, Atheel Nujaifi, one in July and the other in October. Both had previously worked as journalists. Christians in Mosul are frequently the target of attacks by armed insurgent groups like al-Qaeda. A local journalist told Human Rights Watch that according to information a government source provided him, security forces have a list of 44 journalists that armed groups in the area have targeted for assassinations.
Several witnesses, family members and journalists in Mosul who spoke with Human Rights Watch said that no Iraqi investigators have interviewed them regarding the assassinations.
Human Rights Watch could not reach the Interior Ministry for comment. Shaaban, the head of the Center for the Legal Protection of Journalists, said he currently represents more than 10 journalists facing criminal charges. Fatlawi told Human Rights Watch he had interviewed Housing Fund employees before guards ordered him to leave the building. A senior Housing Fund official called Fatlawi on his personal cellphone and threatened to sue him if he did not remove the article, Fatlawi told Human Rights Watch.
On October 27, the Court for Media and Publications sentenced Fatlawi to three days in prison on criminal defamation charges based on the article. Human Rights Watch opposes criminal defamation laws as a disproportionate and unnecessary response to the need to protect reputations, and because they chill freedom of expression.
Iraq is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to free expression. International human rights bodies have long criticized the use of criminal defamation laws, particularly in response to allegations involving public officials.
Rasha al-Abadi, a correspondent for the Baghdadeyya news service in Najaf, told Human Rights Watch that security forces arrested her on November 21 while she was reporting on flooding in the area from heavy rains.
She said police confiscated her cellphone and camera equipment, took them to the Najaf police station, and refused to tell them the charges against them. Police released Abadi and her cameraman five hours later, after repeatedly demanding that she sign a statement pledging that she would no longer work in the media, which she refused to do.
Police have kept her equipment, she said. Abadi said she still does not know whether there is a case against her. Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.