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US condemns 'murder' of Iraqi journalist

© 2014 AFP

24 March 2014

The United States on Monday condemned the killing of a prominent Iraqi journalist in Baghdad over the weekend, describing the shooting as murder.

Mohammed Bidaiwi, editor-in-chief of the US-funded Radio Free Iraq, was shot dead after an altercation with a guard outside a compound in the capital that is controlled by President Jalal Talabani.

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington was "deeply concerned" about Bidaiwi's death and had demanded a full investigation.

"The United States condemns the murder of Radio Free Iraq's Baghdad bureau chief, Mohammed Bidaiwi ... which occurred following a confrontation at a checkpoint in Baghdad," Harf said.

"We are deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding his death, and we call on the government of Iraq to conduct a full investigation."

The officer allegedly responsible, a captain in the Kurdish peshmerga forces, fled the scene after the incident.

He apparently took refuge in presidential guard offices before eventually being handed over after a direct intervention from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who appeared at the scene to demand the guard be taken into custody.

A journalist since 1993, Bidaiwi had been Baghdad bureau chief for Radio Free Iraq since 2006 and was also an associate professor of journalism at the capital's Mustansiriyah University.

The broadcaster was established in 1998 and is a branch of US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, broadcasting in Arabic from Prague and Baghdad.

"The killing of any innocent is to be deplored," Harf said. "The murder of a journalist is a particular affront because it strikes at a fundamental pillar of democracy."

Bidaiwi's death was a "major loss for the entire country of Iraq," Harf added.

Iraq, which has been rocked by the worst explosion of violence since 2008, remains one of the world's deadliest countries for journalists and is routinely criticized for its poor record on media rights.

It frequently scores towards the bottom of press-freedom rankings, and tops the Committee to Protect Journalists' Impunity Index, which tracks unsolved murders of journalists.