Reporters to the event of the battle of Mosul

The death, on June 19, 2017, two journalists came to do a report on the last phase of the battle of Mosul, is an opportunity for RSF to remember that hundreds of local and foreign journalists are covering for the month of October 2016 for the re-conquest of the second city of Iraq in terms of more difficult.

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Then the final attack was launched last Sunday in the old city of Mosul for the recapture of the second largest city of Iraq still partially held by the fighters of the group islamic State, a handful of permanent correspondents independent based in Erbil, as well as a few tens of iraqi journalists and foreigners are trying to continue to cover a decisive battle in adapting to a terrain more hazardous.

In the aftermath of the explosion of a homemade device that took the lives of the French journalists Stephan Villeneuve and kurdish iraqi Bakhthiar Haddad, and that injured French journalist Véronique Robert and Samuel Forey, the iraqi authorities have decided to limit the access to the old city, located in the western part of Mosul where we are currently fighting. Similar measures had been taken in October 2016, after the death of two iraqi journalists a few days after the launch of the military offensive that had allowed it to regain control of the eastern part of the city of Mosul.

Since the month of February 2017, which marked the beginning of the launch of the ground offensive for the reconquest of the western part of the city, a total of 226 teams of journalists, including 84 foreign, have been officially recorded by the joint Command operations (JOC) in Iraq, according to his spokesman, brigadier general Yahia Rasul. It is difficult to know the exact number of journalists currently on the ground, these do not necessarily have to register with a central authority. However, according to information gathered by RSF, which is that of the French journalists, six of them – four special envoys and two permanent correspondents – are always to be found this time in the region of Mosul or in the city of Erbil, capital of iraqi Kurdistan and rear base of the battle of Mosul.

Among them, Oriane Greenfinch, 25 years, independent journalist based in Erbil who works as a correspondent for RFI, Radio France, Liberation and the RTS. Located in the region from 2014, “not to go to war, but first to explain to regional issues”, the journalist has received training specific security provided by France Media World, which helps him today to “be thoughtful, in control and to always measure if the risk taken is worth the information that I’m going to be able to bring”. This arbitration, Oriane Verdier should do it more often, given the sharp deterioration in the security conditions in the region for the past three years.

“The conditions of report are more difficult and complicated in the country,” confirms Peter Barbancey, reporter at Humanity, who covers Iraq for the past 17 years. In Mosul, where the journalist visited in December 2016, “it is impossible to feel truly safe, because even when one has the impression of not being in a combat zone, a car packed with explosives can come out of anywhere and a mortar shell might fall at any moment.” The journalist who has covered many conflicts around the world, also recalls : “in Mosul as elsewhere, we are not targets to shoot down but also to kidnap her. This risk exists everywhere but in the maze of streets of Mosul, the danger is even greater”.

The old city of Mosul, where they have cut off the last elements of Daesh, is a maze for the armed forces as to the journalists. These must move forward, on foot, in the narrow streets and curves, heavily mined, while being exposed to the firing of mortar shells and snipers of the group Islamic State that can shelter in the houses or on the roofs. “Daesh is a past master in the art of target journalists (…) with bombs launched from drones and snipers on the front lines,” already explained Ziad Al-Ajili, the director of the journalistic freedoms Observatory (JFO), based in Baghdad, shortly after taking control of Mosul by the jihadists in June 2014. Today, Ziad Al-Ajili presents a sad balance sheet : “9 journalists have been killed in the war of Mosul ( … ), and nearly 46 iraqi journalists and foreigners have been wounded.” This high number is explained by the ferocity of the conflict, but also by a lack of resources, protective equipment, and sometimes even to experience or lack of prior training.

Freelance photographer Laurence Jay, who has in particular followed the battle of Mosul to the daily The World and that is that time on site is aware of all these dangers and égrenne those with whom he or she must have : “it must be blunder to mortars, snipers and mines.” With the coverage of the fighting in the old city of Mosul, the photojournalist is also preparing for the weeks to come will be even more difficult for journalists“, because it is here that lies the heart of Daesh”.

This is going to be “a battle of terrible” also considers Frédéric Lafargue, another freelance photographer, who works regularly in Iraq since the first Gulf war in 1991. “The two camps are not at their first attempt, the level of engagement of iraqi forces as the Islamic State is very high, the configuration of the ground -editor’s note : an old town with a maze of narrow streets – is negative, so there are bound to be a huge risk to cover this kind of situation,” said the photojournalist, who followed the beginning of the battle of Mosul to Paris Match. “The presence of civilians makes the equation even more difficult, and the fact that the fighters of Daesh live may be their Alamo, they are here to stay and cause maximum damage, of course, it makes you think before you go” concludes Frédéric Lafargue.

For the past two years, the group Islamic State still holds ten journalists and media assistants iraqis abducted in Mosul. The AR has grabbed all the media of the city in 2014, turning Mosul into a black hole of information, up to the offensive of the iraqi army and its allies launched on 17 October last.

As a reminder, RSF) had issued a joint report on the northern city of Mosul with journalistic freedoms Observatory (JFO) in Iraq, at the end of October 2015 last making an inventory of the situation of the freedom of the press from the control of the city by the AR.

The Iraq figure in the 158th (out of 180) of the Classification of 2017 on the freedom of the press established by Reporters without borders.

Reporters without borders (RSF) publishes, in partnership with Unesco, a practical guide to safety of journalists, available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Designed for journalists who go into areas the so-called ” risks “, the manual provides practical advice to ward off the dangers of the field.

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