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Australia 31 January 2007

Open letter to attorney-general about “Al Qaeda” threat to Iraqi community newspaper

Yesterday, Reporters Without Borders wrote to attorney-general Philip Ruddock calling for urgent action in response to death threats against Al-Furat, a weekly serving Australia’s Iraqi community, by an anonymous caller claiming to belong to Al Qaeda. The letter asked Ruddock to take the threats seriously and to provide protection for the editor, Hussein Khoshnow, and his staff.

“We believe it is important that the Australian authorities should find out who is responsible for these threats as quickly as possible so that Khoshnow is able to carry on working without any problem,” the letter said.

An Iraqi of Kurdish origin who has lived in Australia since 1995, Khoshnow produces an Arabic and English-language secular newspaper with a circulation of about 20,000.

On 14 January, a man claiming to belong to the terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda left messages on Khoshnow’s answering machine in which he threatened to destroy the newspaper’s offices in Sydney and Melbourne, and to “massacre” Khoshnow and “all the Kurdish and Shiite Iraqis in Australia.”

After listening to the messages, Khoshnow reported the matter to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which, he said, did not show much interest. Thereafter, the ASIO has not informed him of any progress with the case.

Khoshnow suspects the death threats were made because of his editorial support for Saddam Hussein’s execution and for keeping Australian troops in Iraq .

Reporters Without Borders believes the Australian authorities should solve this case as soon as possible in part to ensure that Al-Furat continues to operate, and in part to prevent this kind of intimidation from undermining the diversity of the foreign community media.

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