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Iraq officials announce draft bill to protect journalists' rights

[JURIST] The Iraqi government [official website, in Arabic] announced on Friday the drafting of a law that proposes a framework to safeguard Iraqi journalists. The proposed law [AFP report] would offer greater protection to staff journalists than to freelancers and would criminalize attacks against a journalist on the job. The bill details compensation that journalists would receive for injuries sustained on duty and that journalists' families would be entitled to if the journalist were killed on the job. The proposed bill addresses usage of anonymous sources and seeks to protect journalists from being forced to publish on subjects or opinions against their will. Despite the proposed rights and protections, the Iraqi-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory [advocacy website, in Arabic] has decried the proposed law [Reuters report] as a threat that could erode journalists' freedom from governmental interference in regards to revealing sources or restricting material published that may benefit an undefined enemy of the state.

Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] has documented [RWB report] the dangers journalists have faced in Iraq, including the death of "225 journalists and media assistants since the start of the start of the fighting ... in March 2003." The Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website] has also documented [statistical profile] those dangers, and has determined that the most prevalent cause of death is murder, followed by crossfire or other acts of war. Iraq has been criticized in the past for restrictive media policies. Iraqi military spokesperson Major General Qassim Atta in April sought the closure [JURIST report] of the Bagdad offices of newspaper Al-Hayat and television network Al-Sharquiya [media websites, in Arabic] after the two media outlets allegedly misquoted him in a story.

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