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Sheeffah Shiraz

Killing the messenger

File Photo: Journalists such as Nepal Farsakh face many perils while working [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 July, 2015

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Analysis: Scores of journalists have been killed in the Middle East and North Africa region so far this year, as brutal conflicts and political turmoil continue to rage.

At least 26 journalists have been killed in the Middle East and North Africa since the start of 2015, with Yemen, Libya and Iraq the bloodiest countries for media workers.

According to data from the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), ongoing wars and conflicts in the MENA region have led to a seven percent rise in the number of journalists killed in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2014.

April was the most deadly month for media workers in Libya, with PEC registering at least six deaths, of the eight there so far this year.

Islamic State group militants slit the throats of five journalists - four Libyans and one Egyptian - working for a Libyan TV station in the eastern part of the country.

Libya has slid into chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

It is now bitterly divided between an elected parliament and government cornered in the country's east, with little power on the ground, and an Islamist militia-backed government in the west that has seized the capital of Tripoli.

"I started receiving threats, which I ignored, because I did not expect my country to become a hostage to, and to be ruled by, armed militias," a Libyan journalist told the International News Safety Institute (INSI).

"I was away at a workshop in Paris when gangs, which is a correct description of these militias, broke into my house by force. They threatened my 80-year-old mother, my wife and my five-year-old son with automatic weapons and took them to one of their camps - though they were released later that evening."

His house was later burned down and he was forced to flee to Tunisia.

Restive region

Iraq and Yemen have also witnessed a deadly start to the year.

Yemen has been engulfed in nearly four months of fighting, in which a Saudi-led military coalition is battling rebel forces that had forced Yemen's internationally recognised president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to flee.

Eight journalists and media staff have been killed in Yemen since the start of 2015, PEC reported.

Mohammed Rajah Shamsan, a reporter for Yemen Today TV, was killed along with three of his colleagues in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in April.

Two other reporters, Abdullah Kabil of Yemen Shabab TV and Yousef Alaizry of Shuhail TV, abducted by the Houthi group on May 20, were killed during a bombardment, the Zaidi group said.

The consequence of [killing journalists] is that the public know less about the world than they should
- Richard Sambook, INSI

PEC also stated that at least 12 journalists are currently being held hostage in Yemen. Their lives are believed to be in danger. "The space for free journalism in Yemen is decreasing because of tensions in the whole region," said the PEC.

Since the start of the year, seven journalists have been killed in Iraq - the most recent being the killing of reporter Suha Ahmed Radi by the Islamic State group in Mosul this month.

The group has been known to execute journalists in the areas of Iraq and Syria under its control.

"So far this year seven journalists have been decapitated by jihadist groups - a figure unthinkable a few years ago," INSI president Richard Sambrook said.

Syria, which had topped the list for the past three years, saw a decline in the number of media workers killed - down from 11 in 2014 to four during the first six months of 2015.

Since the beheadings of Japanese and American freelancers, Kenji Goto and James Foley, Syria has become a no-go zone for most reporters.

"The consequence of all this is that the public know less about the world than they should, and the killing of journalists is increasingly seen as a political act or means of censorship," INSI's Sambrook said.

Sambrook believes that this year is "shaping up to be worse" than 2014, during which at least 52 were killed around the region. 

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