Baghdad newspapers attacked by gunmen

An Iraqi journalist walks past the archive newspapers burned after attack by an armed group at the newspaper’s headquarters of Addustour newspaper in Baghdad April 2, 2013. (Reuters)

Gunmen raided the offices of four independent Iraqi newspapers overnight, damaging them and wounding six employees, which drew condemnation from rights groups and diplomats on Tuesday.

The Baghdad offices of Al-Dustour (The Constitution), Al-Parliament, Al-Mustaqbal (The Future) and Al-Nas (The People) were all attacked on Monday evening by large groups of men.

All four newspapers were apparently targeted for publishing reports critical of Shiite Muslim cleric Mahmud al-Sarkhi, but it was not immediately clear if the attackers were linked to him.

“About 30 armed men in civilian clothes entered our offices after forcibly removing the door,” Al-Mustaqbal editor-in-chief Ali Darraji told AFP. “They set fire to my car, and they entered the office, broke all the computers and everything around.”

“All of this happened in about 20 minutes -- when guards outside opened fire to scare them away, they escaped, but they escaped after doing what they wanted to do.”

A medic at Ibn Nafis hospital six people wounded in the raids were treated.

The incidents drew condemnation from the United Nations and the Journalism Freedom Observatory, an Iraq-based media rights group.

“Assaults against media organizations or journalists are unacceptable under any circumstances,” U.N. special envoy Martin Kobler said in a statement.

Muayad al-Lami, the head of the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate, condemned the attack.

While he declined to make specific accusations of blame, he told AFP: “We are continuing our communication with religious leaders... because some of those who carried out these attacks talked about such religious groups.”

Iraq ranks near the bottom of multiple media rights rankings. Reporters Without Borders puts it 150th out of 179 countries in its press freedoms index, and the Committee to Protect Journalists says 93 murders of reporters in Iraq have yet to be solved, the highest per capita figure in the world.

Last Update: Tuesday, 02 April 2013 KSA 21:54 - GMT 18:54