Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Iraq: June '07

IWPR establishes fund to support journalists in danger in a month which saw the Iraq team lose two reporters.
IWPR works in crisis areas around the world where reporting is not a daily routine but a challenge, and one that often comes with big risks. And as much as we try to minimise the danger for our reporters and set great store in not jeopardising lives for stories, we cannot always keep them out of harm’s way.

June 2007 was a deadly month for journalists in Iraq, and the IWPR Iraq team lost two reporters - Sahar al-Haideri from Mosul and Arif Ali from Diyala. Al-Haideri was killed by armed gunmen in Mosul on June 7, and Ali was hit by a roadside bomb while driving in his car in Diyala on June 10.

Iraqi journalists know they are in danger. Many of our reporters have received threats, often more than once, on their mobile phones, pinned to their door, or slipped underneath a gate. They have become true experts in moving around carefully, in taking precautions while still pursuing their work. "We do not want to stop," more than one of them has said, "because when we stop, those who want to intimidate us have won."

But sometimes there is only one thing the reporters can do: stop reporting for a while and go abroad to avoid falling victim to targeted assassinations which have occurred with alarming frequency against media workers in the past month.

Yet the decision to go into exile is a very difficult one. This can bring safety, but means the loss of country, community, and professional attachment.

Most of the reporters have families they must provide for, children that need to go to school – the threats journalists receive undermine their already moderate income. Relocation, even if only temporary, costs money. Money many Iraqi journalists do not have.

The most recent loss of life has prompted IWPR to create a special fund to assist journalists in danger. With 106 killed journalists in Iraq since 2003 - 86 of them murdered - the risk is too great for the journalists to deal with alone.

The Sahar Journalists’ Assistance Fund, named after Sahar al-Haideri, will help families of murdered or injured IWPR reporters and contributors, and will also support journalists in need of relocation and a place to hide.

Prominent journalists and members of the IWPR board will form the steering committee which has the authority to administer the fund.

It is open for donations, will be kept entirely separate from any operational accounts, and may be used for all regions in which IWPR is operating and supporting the local media.

“May God save female journalists, most of whom work anonymously for fear of being killed for no other crime than telling the truth,” Haideri said in remarks that went out on IWPR’s radio show The Other Half.

Donations to the fund can be made through the IWPR webpage.