Iraqi forces raid journalists' office overnight

AP News
Posted: Feb 23, 2011 1:07 PM
Iraqi forces raid journalists' office overnight

Gunmen raided the office of an Iraqi journalists' organization Wednesday, taking equipment such as flak jackets, laptops and video cameras, the director of the Baghdad-based independent group said.

The men wore black, military-style uniforms, said Ziyad al-Ajili, head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, adding that he did not know where they were from. A Baghdad military spokesman told The Associated Press that the men were part of the Iraqi army; he gave few other details.

Al-Ajili said the gunmen made off with years of files gathered by the organization about violations against the media as well as the equipment stored in the group's downtown Baghdad offices. The group works to protect journalists in Iraq.

An AP reporter saw an overturned photocopier, posters of journalists that had been ripped down and broken furniture. The guard who was at the building reported seeing about 12 Humvees pull up outside the building before the raid went down, al-Ajili said.

"I think the parties behind this do not believe in democracy. They don't know that media is the way to convey information to people. They ignore the real idea about press," said a visibly shaken al-Ajili.

He said the group called the top military spokesman in Baghdad, Qassim al-Moussawi, and were told that he had no information about the incident. But when contacted by the AP, al-Moussawi said the raid was carried out by the Iraqi army, which had information that "a company operating without a license" was in the building.

He says all materials will be returned and an investigation launched. When asked whether the troops had seen the sign identifying it as the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, al-Moussawi said they were carrying out an order and did not elaborate.

Although violence has waned in Iraq, it still ranks has one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.