Fakher Haidar al-Tamimi (t.h) ble den 36. irakiske journalisten som er drept i Irak siden krigen begynte, og den 56. totalt. Hans gode venn Ghaith Abdul-Ahad satt sist mandag i London og forberedte seg på å reise til Bagdad. Tvangsmessig scanner han nyhetene fra Irak, og leser under et bilde: «A policeman lifts … the body of Fakher Haidar al-Tamimi …» Verden står stille. Jeg husker det ble rapportert at en frilanser for New York Times var skutt og drept i Basra, den andre på kort tid. Noen ønsker øyensynlig ikke at dyktige stringere skal rapportere hva som skjer i byen.
«An Iraqi journalist and photographer working for the New York Times in Basra was found dead early Monday after being abducted from his home by a group of armed men wearing masks and claiming to be police officers,» read the report.
«The journalist, Fakher Haidar, 38, was found with his hands bound and a bag over his head in a deserted area on the outskirts of Basra, in southern Iraq, hours after being taken from his house in that city. A relative who viewed his body in the city morgue said he had at least one bullet-hole in his head and bruises on his back as if he had been beaten.»
Irak blir et stadig farligere sted for mennesker som ham. Det er blitt for farlig for vestlige å bevege seg ut, annet enn i pansrede kolonner. Nå er det irakerne som gjør jobben, og de betaler en høy pris.
Men Abdul-Ahad sier de samtidig føler en enorm glede og beruselse over å kunne fortelle sannheten, etter så mange år i tvungen taushet.
«With the foreign press unable to move around freely for fear of attack, Iraqis have become the eyes and ears of the world in this conflict,» reads a statement by CPJ Executive Ann Cooper on their website. «The recent violence is threatening to cut off this critical source of information.»
As reporting from Iraq is becoming almost impossible, new ground rules have been set for most of the foreign media. Apart from a handful of journalists, everyone goes out in armed convoys, if they go out at all. If you are six feet tall, fair-haired and stupid enough to come to Baghdad, then you might as well stick to the hotel swimming pool or your agency fortress, and the occasional trip embedded with the US Army. Instead you can count on your Iraqi employees to go out and get you the story.
A mixture of guilt, responsibility and ambition keeps driving Iraqi journalists to push the limits a bit further every time. The intoxication you get from reporting the truths after so many decades of lies is indescribable. You feel you can tell the world what is really happening, but you also feel that you are safe because of the way you look, because of your scruffy beard or your moustache. But far from being immune, the Iraqis are the ones getting killed.
Omringet av fiender
The idea of independent Iraqi journalism is being killed only two years after it was born, a little of it dying with each of these brave 37 people. Iraqi journalists are being killed by the Americans, the insurgents, the militias and the police. They are often intimidated and threatened by anyone who doesn’t like their coverage. There are no ground rules for them; they won’t be allowed the luxuries of the fast car and the bodyguard, and they often have houses and families in the local area. They can be located easily, which is why they are often in the firing line.
News agencies are dependent on native journalists covering events in their local towns, where even Iraqis from another city cannot go. Those people are left there to fend for themselves, vulnerable in the midst of the insurgents. Americans often consider them to be cooperating with the insurgency or insurgents themselves, especially if they work for an Arab news channel. If they are not shot dead in fighting, they can end up in American custody.
‘How can you establish a free media in such fear and anarchy?’