Iraqi Journalists Horrified by Cowardly Murder of the Head of their Union

Initiative Committee for Solidarity with Journalists in Iraq
Iraqi Association
241 King Street London W6 9LP

29 February 2008

The head of Iraqi Journalists’ Union, Shihab al-Timimi, died on Wednesday 27th February 2008 in hospital in Baghdad where he was receiving treatment after being shot and seriously wounded by gunmen four days earlier. Iraqi journalists and media workers strongly condemned the criminal attack on al-Timimi, who was in his mid-70s, and were deeply saddened by his death. He had been a journalist for more than four decades and was elected president of the union for two successive terms since 2003. Despite his old age, he worked tirelessly to defend the rights of journalists and media workers, and courageously campaigned for protecting their lives. More than 200 Iraqi journalists have been killed since the war in 2003, with 47 murdered last year.

The cowardly murder of Shihab al-Timimi further highlights the plight of Iraqi journalists and the enormous dangers they are facing daily. We call upon journalists and their unions all over the world, to condemn this horrific crime and to press the Iraqi authorities to take urgent measures to provide effective protection to Iraqi journalists and media workers. The perpetrators of the barbaric crimes committed against Shihab al-Timimi and scores of his colleagues must be brought to justice.

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Mourns Loss of President of Iraqi Union of Journalists after Terror Attack

The International Federation of Journalists today expressed deep regret and shock at the death of the President of the Iraqi Union of Journalists in Baghdad who has succumbed to wounds sustained in a targeted attack by gunmen at the weekend.

Shihab Al-Timimi, 75, suffered a heart attack today and died in hospital where he was taken after sustaining wounds to the stomach, shoulder and face when his car was hit by a hail of bullets in the attack. His son Rabei was also in the car and was slightly injured.

“This assassination of a courageous and veteran champion of journalists’ rights causes deep pain for all of us,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Journalists all around the world share the grief of our Iraqi colleagues. We send them our deepest sympathy and we pledge to stand alongside them in defiance of the killers.”

The IFJ has worked with the Iraqi union to improve safety for the country’s media in response to more than 250 killings of journalists and media staff since the conflict started in 2003.

A delegation of the IFJ visited Baghdad last month to discuss with Al-Timimi and the union’s secretary general Moaid Al-Lami – both of whom have received numerous death threats from extremists – plans to strengthen media freedom and levels of protection for journalists.

“Shihab reflected the indomitable spirit of Iraqi journalism,” said White. “He has provided leadership and a positive vision for the future during these dark days. He gave his life for the independence and solidarity of the profession and all of us owe him a great and lasting debt.”

The IFJ has reiterated its call on the Iraqi authorities to find the killers who struck just after a meeting where union leaders had put the finishing touches to plans for a seminar on the safety of journalists.

The seminar, held earlier this week, is part of the work plan of the Iraq Media Safety Group, supported by leading media and the journalists’ union, and created with the support of the IFJ and the International News Safety Institute last year.

“The work will go on and Iraqi journalists will not be intimidated,” said White. “But all of us are deeply saddened by this loss.”