Government crackdown continues as more than 105 killed, journalists attacked and offices of critical media reported burned

Demonstrators set on fire the Hikma movement building during a protest over unemployment, corruption
Demonstrators set on fire the Hikma movement building during a protest over unemployment, corruption and poor public services, in Najaf, Iraq October 2, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/ABDULLAH DHIAA AL-DEEN)


At least 19 people were reported killed on Saturday as the Iraqi government continued a brutal crackdown on protests. The offices and journalists from several prominent networks, including Al-Arabiya, were attacked by masked gunmen on Saturday in what seems like a coordinated attempt to shut down all dissenting channels. Internet and social media were also suppressed, a practice that began on October 2 in response to massive protests in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

Several stations were attacked on Saturday night, including NRT, Al-Arabiya and Dijlah TV. The attacks appeared coordinated because they happened around the same time. Al-Arabiya was the first to be attacked. It tweeted at 10:04pm that it’s offices had been targeted by “masked gunmen.” Their journalists said they had received threats over the last days and that on the night of October 5 black-clad gunmen appeared. The journalists were attacked, equipment destroyed and their mobile phones damaged. They said they called for assistance from Federal Police who did not intervene to help.

NRT has reported that protesters burned the Badr party headquarters in Nasiriyah at 8pm. Two hours later NRT’s offices were attacked in Baghdad and burned, according to their own report. It was 10:07pm. According to reported Dijlah TV’s offices were burned. That was reported around 9:57pm.

Al-Hadath reported at 10:24pm that masked men attacked their offices in Baghdad, Iraq. Three cars with armed men apparently stormed their office, according to a tweet from the station. At least one of their journalists was injured after being beaten.

There is anger across Iraq and abroad over the attacks on the channels. It was not clear if the closure of the channels had been ordered. One tweet from just after 9pm claimed the Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi had ordered Dijlah closed. The destruction of equipment and beatings of journalists appear to show that the attacks were more than just a government order, but conducted by a paramilitary organization. The government of Iraq had already moved last month  to suspend Al-Hurra after it conducted an investigation into corruption of religious endowments. Reports indicated that Fallouja TV, Alghad Alaraby, SkyNews Arabia and AL-Sharqiya were also targeted. It was not clear from SkyNews Arabia or Sharqiya when their officers were targeted.

The death toll is now more than 105 people in Iraq and the coordinated attacks on media appear to be a foreboding sign for the future of the crisis. Even though major leaders such as Muqtada and Sadr and Haider al-Abadi have called for early elections, the government appears to be digging in. There are other forces at work as well. The stations attacked are linked to countries, groups or voices that are more critical of Iran. That means the attacks could have been carried out by pro-Iranian militias.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post