Updated: PM Abadi orders probe into Iraqi journalist kidnapping

Iraqi journalist Afrah Shawqi.


Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered on Tuesday an urgent investigation into the reported kidnapping of an Iraqi journalist by unknown gunmen.

Abadi’s office said in a statement that the prime minister urged security authorities to preserve the safety of journalist Afrah Shawqi and to “prosecute whoever proved to be involved” into the incident.

The kidnapping is a “barbaric” act that seeks to “persecute and muzzle journalists,” said a statement by Baghdad Governor Ali al-Tamimi.

Shawqi, a reporter for al-Aalem al-Jadeed online newspaper, was kidnapped Early Tuesday by an unknown armed group from her residence in Saydiya, Baghdad, her sister, Nibras, wrote on facebook, adding that the group, which arrived in a pickup truck, claimed to be affiliated with security authorities.

Her personal possessions and private car were also stolen by the group, the post said.

Afrah has been recently critical of security performance after an assault by an Interior Ministry officer on a school teacher in the province of Dhi Qar. Shawqi had written that the officer ordered the school’s headmaster to sack a student who bumped into his own daughter during a stampede. When the teacher rejected his demand, he assaulted her, according to Shawqi. Social networks users had circulated photos of the officer and his colleagues, all plain-clothed and carrying weapons inside the school.

“There is nothing worse in a country than humiliating a teacher; nothing is worse than neglect by those who carry weapons. If the state is anxious to preserve its prestige, it should hold accountable whoever uses weapons illicitly,” Shawqi wrote on her facebook page early Tuesday.

But Shawqi has also worked for the Saudi-owned, London-based Asharq al-Awsat, which caused an official and public outcry in Iraq last November when a reporter working for it reported of cases of illegitimate pregnancies among Iraqi women visiting shrines in the holy city of Karbala during the annual Shia religious feast of Ashoura. The report ignited a diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia and the newspaper had to sack its reporter and offer an apology.

Seven reporters died in Iraq in 2016, out of a total of 57 who died in in conflict areas across the world, according to a recent report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).


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