Death Threats Over Tikrit Coverage Force Reuters’ Baghdad Bureau Chief To Flee!
Ned Parker, the Baghdad bureau chief for Reuters, has left Iraq after receiving threats on Facebook and a satellite news channel run by a Shiite paramilitary group, the news agency reported Saturday. The threats began last week after Parker and two colleagues reported on lynchings and looting in the city of Tikrit.
Parker’s exit is the latest signal that violence against journalists is rising in Iraq and around the world. Last year, 118 journalists and media staff were killed while on duty, an increase of 13 deaths compared with 2013, the International Federation of Journalists reported in December. The organization cited wars and conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine as well as violent insurgencies in Pakistan and Afghanistan for the increase in journalist deaths.
Pressure on Parker mounted after an April 3 Reuters investigation on human-rights abuses in Tikrit after Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed militias expelled the Islamic State group, formerly called ISIL or ISIS. Two Reuters journalists in the city saw Iraqi police lynching an Islamic State group fighter. The team also witnessed widespread looting and arson, acts that local politicians blamed on the Iranian-backed militia.
Soon after the story was published, an Iraqi Facebook page that is believed to be linked to armed Shiite groups began issuing threats against Parker, Reuters said. An April 5 post and related comments demanded the journalist be expelled from Iraq. One commenter suggested that rather than force his exit, killing Parker was “the best way to silence him.”
Three days later, a TV station owned by Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian-backed armed group, broadcast a segment on Parker accusing him and Reuters of denigrating Iraq and its forces. The segment, which showed Parker’s photo, called on viewers to demand he be expelled.
Rafid Jaboori, a spokesman for Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite, said the Iraqi government was “definitely against any message that encourages hatred or intimidation, whether it comes from a local or international network,” Reuters reported. More