Key Developments

  • Fatalities drop, but authorities use threats, harassment to stifle reporting.

  • As protection law fails journalists, cybercrime bill poses new threat.

For the first time since 2003, CPJ did not document any work-related fatalities in Iraq. Still, central government officials and Kurdish regional authorities used threats, harassment, attacks, and imprisonment to suppress critical news coverage throughout the year. The central government's media regulator ordered 44 local and international news outlets shut down in June for supposed license violations, but the authorities did not ultimately enforce the directive. Local journalists said the order was intended to be a warning to news outlets that they should toe the government line. In October, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the ambiguous and restrictive Journalist Protection Law. A press freedom group had argued that the 2011 legislation failed to provide any security for journalists while imposing constraints on access to official information. In July, parliament debated a proposed cybercrime bill, which carried a penalty of life imprisonment for violations such as using the Internet to "harm the reputation of the country" and broadcasting "false and misleading facts" intended to "damage the national economy." With no convictions in at least 93 unsolved journalist murders since 2003, Iraq ranked first on CPJ's Impunity Index for the fifth consecutive year.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of dynamically-generated graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2012.]

Killed, motive confirmed: 0

CPJ documented no work-related fatalities, although three journalists were killed in unclear circumstances. CPJ continued to investigate those cases. At least 150 journalists have been killed since 2003 in direct reprisal for their reporting, according to CPJ research.

Imprisoned on December 1: 1

The authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan sentenced freelance journalist Karzan Karim to two years in prison on anti-state charges in connection with his coverage of alleged corruption at the Arbil airport. CPJ documented no journalists in prison when it conducted its annual December 1 census in 2011.

Unsolved Murders: 93

The authorities have obtained no convictions in 93 journalist murders since 2003, according to CPJ research. For the past five years, Iraq has ranked first on CPJ's Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country's population.

1. Iraq
2. Somalia
3. Philippines
4. Sri Lanka
5. Colombia
6. Nepal
7. Afghanistan
8. Mexico
9. Russia
10. Pakistan
11. Brazil
12. India

Compensation: $430

Under the Journalist Protection Law, up to 500,000 Iraqi dinars (US$430) would be given to journalists or their families as compensation in cases of injury or death. The law, composed of 19 articles wrought with ambiguities, was implemented in November 2011, but its constitutionality was challenged by a press freedom group in a case brought to the Supreme Court in January. The case was pending in late year.

Repressive aspects of the law:

Definition: The law narrowly defines a journalist as someone who works full-time, in effect excluding part-time journalists, bloggers, and other individuals involved in disseminating news.

Registration: It also states that media groups must register "under the law," but does not specify what law, and says journalists have the "right to obtain information, news, statements, and statistics ... within the limits of the law," but again does not specify the law.

Insult: Journalists convicted of insulting the government can be imprisoned for up to seven years, a punishment carried over from the 1968 Publications Law.

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