US-Funded Al Hurra Channel Stops Field Operations in Baghdad, South Iraq
The US-backed Al Hurra news station has closed its offices in Baghdad due to threats on journalists and offices.
It announced taking “immediate steps to realign its field presence in Iraq, given the deteriorating security situation in the capital, Baghdad.”
Al Hurra is operated by the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), a non-profit corporation financed by the US government.
It station has ended 15 years of field work in Baghdad and southern Iraq, which was accompanied and associated with political, security and social events that occurred after overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. Its first broadcast aired on February 14, 2004.
Journalists at the TV station’s office in Baghdad told Asharq Al-Awsat that official e-mails were received from the administration in Washington to end the contracts of all workers in Iraq except those working in the Kurdistan region.
“The network has taken a package of preventive measures in Iraq after receiving information about the possibility of attacks against Al Hurra offices in Baghdad,” MBN President Ambassador Alberto Fernandez said in a statement.
The network “does not trust the Iraqi authorities’ ability to protect Al Hurra crews, all of whom are Iraqis,” said Fernandez.
He referred to their inability to protect journalist Ahmed Abdul Samad, who was assassinated a few days ago in Basra, in addition to the hundreds of demonstrators who have died since October.
He pointed to the attacks that took place last October against independent and neutral media outlet offices and wondered whether attacks on Al Hurra offices will be similar or more dangerous.
Fernandez was referring to the attacks carried out by masked gunmen against offices of Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath channels in Baghdad after covering news on protests in Iraq.
Security concerns come amid an ongoing militia-led campaign to threaten Al Hurra crews and force them to publicly resign to avoid being killed and assassinated, Fernandez explained.
Iraqi press circles believe that the termination of all channel contracts for workers in Baghdad and the central and southern governorates means the end of years of field work in Iraq.