BAGHDAD, (AP) – Gunmen killed an Iraqi journalist from The New York Times as he drove to work Friday, the third staffer of a Western news organization to be killed in the past two days. In his last moments, Khalid W. Hassan called his mother on his cell phone and told her he had been shot.
Hassan, 23, was the second Times employee killed in the Iraq conflict, in which 110 journalists and 40 media support staffers have been killed since the 2003 U.S. invasion, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The Times said the circumstances of the attack remain unclear. Hassan was driving to work when he called the bureau to say his normal route to the office was blocked by a security checkpoint so he was taking a different path.
Less than an hour later, he was attacked in the Sadiyah district of southwest Baghdad. He was able to call his mother, telling her, “I’ve been shot.” His family later called the bureau and reported he had been killed, the paper said.
Hassan, who worked for the paper in Baghdad for four years, “was part of a large, sometimes unsung community of Iraqi news-gatherers, translators, and support staff, who take enormous risks every day to help us comprehend their country’s struggle and torment,” Times executive editor Bill Keller said. “Without them, Americans’ understanding of what is happening on the ground in Iraq would be much, much poorer.”
The Times did not say whether it believed he was targeted because of his connection to the paper.
Iraqi journalists working for local and international media frequently face threats from threats from insurgents and other militants for their reporting — and 71 have been killed, according to CPJ. Another 39 have died from being caught in bombings or the crossfire of clashes between U.S. or Iraqi soldiers and gunmen.
On Tuesday, an Iraqi photographer and driver working for the Reuters news agency were killed during a battle in eastern Baghdad between U.S. forces and Shiite militiamen, during which a U.S. helicopter blasted targets on the ground and insurgents fired mortars and automatic weapons. The U.S. military said nine gunmen were killed in the battle, along with the two Reuters staffers, while Iraqi police and medical officials put the toll at 19, including other civilians.
Nearly 85 percent of the journalists killed since the war began have been Iraqis, according to CPJ.
The overall count by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders is even higher than CPJ’s. It says more than 180 journalists and other employees of media organizations have been killed during the conflict.
“There is no safe way to report on the streets of Baghdad. The fact that Khalid Hassan was shot on his way to work is a reminder that even the simplest, most routine functions of daily life can be deadly in an environment of rampant violence,” the New York-based CPJ’s executive director, Joel Simon, said in a statement expressing condolences over his death.
In 2005, a stringer for the Times, Fakher Haider, was slain in the southern city of Basra. Five employees of The Associated Press have died violently in Iraq since the war began.