Human rights and press freedom monitors are strongly condemning the murder of Iraqi-Kurdish journalist Soran Mama Hama. The twenty-three-year-old reporter for the Sulaimaniyah-based Livin magazine, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in front of his home in Kirkuk, July 21st.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mr. Hama's last article in Livin "recounted the prevalence of prostitution in Kirkuk and the alleged complicity of police and security officials." In an interview with the Voice of America's Kurdish Service, Ahmed Mira, editor-in-chief of Livin paid tribute to the courageous young journalist:
"Without a doubt, Soran Mama Hama was of one of the most prominent and professional of journalists, with a great future in front of him."
Joel Campagna, Middle East Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called on authorities to apply the rule of law to Mr. Hama's killers:
"We are extremely concerned about the death of Soran Mama Hama. It's a frightening attack on a journalist which, I think, will send a chilling message to all journalists unless those responsible for this terrible crime are identified and brought to justice."
Latif Fatih Faraj, head of the Kirkuk chapter of the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate also condemned the murder and noted that Mr. Hama had previously received a threatening message from an unidentified caller. Journalists in Iraq's Kurdistan region and elsewhere in Iraq continue to be subjected to violence, intimidation, and harassment.
In its human rights report for Iraq, the U.S. State Department notes that during 2007 there was "a marked increase in intimidation of independent journalists by extrajudicial means. Local security forces harassed and jailed editors of major independent publications for publishing articles that were critical of the Kurdistan Regional Government or Kurdish party officials, especially for alleged corruption."
Journalists working in Iraq, including Iraqi Kurds, also risk violence from armed extremist groups. During 2007, at least thirty-two journalists and twelve other media workers were murdered and eight journalists were abducted.
Protecting a free and independent press is one of the most important responsibilities of any government. The U.S. urges Kurdistan Regional Government authorities to hold the killers of Soran Mama Hama accountable and protect those of his colleagues still at risk.