BY Middle East Online

Outspoken Iraqi journalist murdered

An Iraqi journalist critical of Haider al-Abadi’s government was found dead at his home in Baghdad in the western Qadisiya district with a single bullet wound to the chest.

Raad al-Jabbouri, who was a presenter for the local television channel al-Rasheed, had written editorials in the local newspaper Azzaman about systemic, institutional corruption within the ruling regime. He often blamed the ruling politicians for the various economic and security problems the country faces. His relatives, acquaintances and the Iraqi police said on Thursday that the secular and strident al-Jabbouri had received death threats for his dissenting opinions.

A photograph of the body released Thursday and seen by Reuters journalists “showed bruising to the face”. Analysis of forensic evidence led initial police reports to suggest that Jubbouri had struggled against his assailant before being shot in the heart, although conflicting reports imply that the initial investigations resulted in claims that al-Jabbouri had committed suicide. These claims were strongly refuted by his family; the incident occurred late on Tuesday and the identity of the killer remains unknown.

"He received letters threatening him a year ago," said an acquaintance who wished to remain anonymous. "I read two of them, they contained death threats and foul words".

The head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, Ziad al-Ajilli, said the presenter had endured numerous threats before his death, providing the organisation with telephone numbers to call in the event that anything should happen to him.

"He paid the price of being a journalist in Iraq," said Jubbouri's brother Ahmed. The country has consistently ranked as among the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, due to long-running sectarian hostility, political tension and violent conflicts that have given rise to extremist groups such as the Islamic State, with a policy of deliberately targeting journalists for kidnap and execution.

Iraq is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in the global press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders, , a Paris-based press freedom watchdog of which the Observatory is a partner organisation.

In a recent statement, the group suggested that the source of such threats could be the ruling politicians themselves: “As violence and impunity continue to reign in Iraq, journalists are still being harassed by officials who refuse to accept criticism and do not hesitate to bring judicial proceedings against them.”

The head of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Ammar al-Shahbander, was killed in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad over the weekend. A media advocacy group, The Committee to Protect Journalists, reports that at least 15 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of 2013.

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