For the third year running, Iraq was the world’s most dangerous country for the media in 2005. A total of 74 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the start of fighting in March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for them since World War II. The US army also arbitrarily and illegally arrested journalists. Four were held at Camp Bucca, near Basra, in difficult conditions with no access to lawyers or the right to be visited by their families or employers. US forces have still not presented any evidence they were involved in illegal activities.
More journalists were kidnapped during the year, including seven foreign ones (who were more visible). French reporter Florence Aubenas and her interpreter Hussein Hanoun were freed on 12 June after 157 days and tough negotiations. Giuliana Sgrena, of the Italian daily Il Manifesto, was released on 4 March after a month. Three Romanian journalists - Marie-Jeanne Ion, Sorin Dumitru Miscoci and Eduard Ovidiu Ohanesian - kidnapped on 28 March, were freed after 55 days. French cameraman Fred Nérac, who vanished near Basra on 22 March 2003, has still not been found. The body of his Lebanese interpreter, Hussein Osman, was identified in June 2004 from DNA tests by British military police.
However 95% of the media workers killed in 2005 were Iraqis. Terrorist and guerrilla attacks (accounting for 65% of those killed in 2004) became targeted in 2005. Gunmen broke into media workers’ homes and killed them in front of their families, as was the case with Adnan Al Bayati, interpreter and producer for several Italian media outlets, who was murdered in Baghdad on 23 July. A presenter for the state regional TV network Iraqiya, Raeda Mohammed Wageh Wazzan, was found dead on 25 February, five days after being kidnapped by masked men.
US soldiers also shot dead three media workers, but military investigations either found no fault or were not yet complete. The army said on 26 April that US troops were not responsible for killing Italian security agent Nicola Calipari and wounding Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena as she was being freed in March, saying that the rules had been obeyed and that the Italians’ convoy had been warned before troops opened fire on it as it went to the airport.
Ahmed Wael al Bakri, an Iraqi producer for the TV station Al Sharqiya, was shot dead in his car as he drove too close to a US convoy in Baghdad on 28 June. US soldiers fired on a Reuters news agency team covering the death of two Iraqi policemen in Baghdad’s Hay al-Adil neighbourhood on 28 August, hitting soundman Waleed Khaled, in the face and chest and slightly wounding cameraman Haider Kadhem. The US army admitted responsibility more than a week later but said the soldiers had acted “appropriately.”