After being held captive for nine days, journalist and human rights defender Afrah Shawqi was finally released by her kidnappers and able to return safely to her home in Southern Baghdad last Tuesday. As journalists in Iraq are more and more at risk for violence and kidnappings, it is time to join forces to protect them and make sure that perpetrators of crimes against journalists are prosecuted.
After Shawqi’s abduction on Monday the 26th of December, Iraqi civil society groups and journalists called upon the government to do the utmost possible to ensure her release. After this, the Iraqi government and specifically the Ministry of Interior clearly affirmed they would do their best to find the abducted journalist and the culprits. The fact that the government, journalists and civil society joined forces might have contributed to Shawqi’s release.
The failure to properly investigate on crimes against journalists in Iraq in the past has slowly lead to the normalization of impunity for crimes against journalists. herefore it is of the utmost importance that the groups responsible will be found and brought to trial.
Although this kidnapping case shows that Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, it also provides an illustration of the results achievable when Iraqi civil society organizations and journalists committed to freedom of speech join forces. In fact, this event should be seen as an encouragement for more unified work between Iraqi civil society, journalists and government groups, in order to protect the safety of journalists and combat impunity.
This call to action is supported by:
- Free Press Unlimited
- International Media Support
- National Union of Iraqi Journalists
- Journalistic Freedom Observatory
- Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq
- Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association (IJRDA)
- Iraqi Media House
- Network or Lawyers for Freedom of Expression in Iraq
- Network of Iraqi Reporters for Investigative Journalism
- Metro Center for Journalist Rights and Advocacy
- Iraqi Al Amal Association
- People’s Development Organization in Iraq (PDO)
- Zhin Magazine