The Iraqi parliament on Tuesday approved a law aimed at strengthening journalists’ rights in a country that tops the list of unsolved killings of members of the media.
The law “aims to promote the rights of journalists and protect them in the Republic of Iraq,” according to the second article, the text of which was posted on parliament’s website after its adoption.
“Journalists shall not be questioned or investigated for a crime attributed to them linked to the practice of journalism, except by judicial decision,” according to the law.
It also says newspapers cannot be prevented from publishing or be confiscated except by judicial decision.
And “anyone who assaults a journalist during or because of their work will be punished,” it said, without giving specifics.
The law also mandates that “the state provide free treatment for the journalist who is exposed to injury during work or because of it,” and provides for pensions for journalists killed or injured while working.
Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a May letter, when the bill was being debated, that the law was not necessary, and that Iraq should focus on enforcing existing provisions.
“Reporters Without Borders is of the view that such a law is not necessary inasmuch as the paramount need is to reinforce the constitutional and legal provisions that already exist in Iraq,” it said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in June that Iraq topped its list of countries where media killings often go unpunished for the fourth year in a row, with an unsolved murder rate more than three times that of Somalia, which was next worst.