April 13, 2015 / 7:54 PM / 2 years ago

U.N. says Iraq government responsible for protecting journalists

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Iraqi government is responsible for protecting foreign and local journalists, the United Nations said on Monday, after the Baghdad bureau chief for Reuters had to leave the country when he was threatened in reaction to a Reuters report. (reut.rs/1JzUIRp)

Ned Parker left Iraq last week after he was denounced by a Shi'ite paramilitary group's satellite news channel and threatened on Facebook in reaction to a report that detailed lynching and looting in the city of Tikrit. (reut.rs/1DGja2Q)

"It is incumbent on the Government to do all it can to ensure the protection of domestic and international journalists and media professionals in carrying out their duties, and to send the clear message that threats against media professionals are not acceptable," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"Freedom of expression and the right to impart and to receive information underpin democracy and the rule of law," Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Separately, the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based press freedom advocacy group, urged the Iraqi government to investigate the death threats against Parker and make sure reporters can work there without fear of reprisals.

"Threats aimed at silencing journalists, no matter from where they come, cannot be tolerated. The Iraqi people deserve to know and to share information about the extreme violence and volatility wracking their nation," said Sherif Mansour, head of the group's Middle East and North Africa program.

A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said last week that the government was against any messages that encourage hatred or intimidation. He said the environment for the media had "improved significantly" in Iraq.

The CPJ says that at least 15 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of 2013.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau

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