37-year old Ahmad Abdessamad, a correspondent for the local television station al-Dijlah in Basra and his 26-year-old cameraman Safaa Ghali were shot dead in the southern Iraqi city where they had been covering anti-government protests.
According to media reports, Ahmad and Safaa were in their car when a 4×4 vehicle pulled up and its passengers fired a hail of bullets into the car. Ahmad Abdessamad was killed instantly while his cameraman was taken to hospital, where he died shortly afterwards. A video of the attack later emerged on the website of Dijlah TV, showing Abdessamad slumped down in his seat.
Demonstrations erupted in October 2019 in Baghdad and across Iraq’s Shia-majority south, protesting against government corruption and a lack of jobs.
As the protests drag on, activists have complained of a growing campaign of intimidation, including assassinations, kidnappings and threats, meant to keep them from the rallies. Around a dozen activists have been shot dead and are among the more than 460 people killed in protest-related violence since October 2019, in attacks sometimes carried out in the dead of night by men on motorbikes.
An individual identified only by the initials HK was sentenced to death for the killings. He was arrested with four other people and was apparently part of a larger network of 16 individuals who have been implicated in multiple killings.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, condemned the killing and urged Iraqi authorities to do more to protect reporters covering the movement. “No journalist should have to fear for their safety or be singled out for attack over their coverage of protests,” said the CPJ’s regional representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado.