Mosul: Where telling the truth means death

Mosul: Where telling the truth means death
Journalists in Iraqi territory controlled by the Islamic State group say they face arrest, intimidation and execution for reporting the facts.
3 min read
05 December, 2014
The IS group's rules threaten journalists with death [supplied]

Saying the wrong thing in Mosul gets you killed.

This is the day-to-day reality for journalists in this northern Iraqi city, which was taken over by the Islamic State group in June.

Mohammad al-Mawla, who managed to escape after reporting the exodus of the city's Christians, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that his colleagues faced intimidation, arrest and death as the group tries to control the flow of information.

"You can print and film anything - but it has to go through the office of the 'caliph' or the religious governor," he said. "Pictures and sounds are not released before obtaining approval and items are amended and edited before going public.

"Violators face execution in a public square in the city. IS has planted fear in the hearts of journalists by killing a number of them who disobeyed in front of their colleagues.

"Journalists do not dare cover things that might anger the IS... telling the truth means death."

A noose around the neck

The IS group has also issued a wanted list of 40 journalists it says has contravened its rules. It has also arrested several in the past few weeks - including Ahmad and Ethar Rafea, who work for the Sama al-Mosul satellite channel, Yasir al-Haj Ahmad Mahmoud, a broadcast technician, and photographer Yasir al-Qaisi, without giving any reason.

"Journalists became fugitives for reporting facts. The IS group issued a document outlining 11 principles of journalistic work. The conditions place a noose around the our necks."

And so, anything that comes out of Mosul - and other areas of the so-called "caliphate" - will have been heavily censored. Anything that might anger the IS group will not have been reported at all.

However, Mawla said that many of Mosul's journalists refused to abide by the group's rules, and had used techniques such as pseudonyms and sending fake reports to be censored while smuggling the real news out.

Elsewhere in Nineveh province, journalists face the same censorship and threats.

"You might lose your life for an article or report," Omar al-Jubouri, a Nineveh journalist, told al-Araby. "Anything published without the approval of the IS could lead to one of the public squares."

He listed colleagues who were either dead or missing after being taken by IS fighters. "IS has kidnapped 14 Nineveh journalists, including technicians and administrators, and their fate is unknown," he said.

     Anything published without the approval of the IS could lead to one of the public squares.
- Omar al-Jubouri, journalist in Nineveh

Conditions had got worse for journalists since the start of the US-led coalition's campaign of airstrikes against the IS, he said, as the group tried to stop any security leaks that would help their enemies.

Nevertheless, he said, journalists remain determined to do their jobs.

"I used pseudonyms to write reports about the destruction of Prophet Jonah's shrine, the destruction of houses belonging to Iraqi Islamic Party members and the confiscation of houses belonging to Christians," he said.

Muhammad al-Bajari, another Nineveh journalist, said many of his colleagues had fled the province after the public execution of six journalists falsely accused of working for the Iraqi government.

The head of the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate, Muaid al-Lami said it believed the IS repression of its members in northern Iraq could be classed as war crimes.

"They abduct and kill journalists who disagree with them or who file reports against the IS viewpoint," he said. "This is completely abhorrent according to international laws that prohibit the targeting of journalists.

"This criminal organisation does not understand laws and merely understands the language of takfir [declaring Muslims as heretics] and killing."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.