Asharq Al-Awsat, London/Cologne, Germany – Iraqi journalists exemplify courage and make many sacrifices as they carry out the duties of their profession amidst the horrific events that unfold in their country. According to the annual report presented by Reporters Without Borders, Iraq is the most dangerous country to work in for reporters. It is for this reason that when news regarding the killings of “family members of an Iraqi reporter who runs a website from Germany,” came to light recently, the act was quickly condemned.
Diaa al Kawwaz, the Iraqi reporter, stated that “four people stormed into my family home in al Shaab (north of Baghdad) that I left 20 years ago and they opened fire on women, children and men as they had breakfast, killing them all.” He added, “The members of my family [who were killed] were my two sisters, their husbands and seven children aged between five and 10 years old.”
Reporters Without Borders immediately denounced this alleged act of violence. However, when media reports revealed that the al Kawwaz family was indeed alive and well proof of which came in their appearance on ‘Al-Hurra’ television channel where the family denied the claims the organization soon changed its position.
Reporters Without Borders expressed its anger and astonishment at Diaa al Kawwaz’s false allegation. It said, “We are obviously relieved to learn that the al Kawwaz family is safe and sound but this journalist’s behavior is unacceptable.”
Diaa al Kawwaz, in the Jordanian capital Amman, refused to give Asharq Al-Awsat a statement and said that he would not give any interviews until his entire family had arrived safely in Jordan. He claims that half of his family had already arrived and that he was awaiting the arrival of other family members.
When asked to clarify which family members he was waiting for in consideration of his claim that Shia militants had killed 11 members of his family, al Kawwaz stated that he meant “the remaining members”, adding that “the family will be giving television interviews on its arrival to Jordan so that the truth will made clear to everyone.”
In a press release issued by Diaa al Kawwaz to Reporters Without Borders, he stated that the Iraqi government sought to “overthrow him politically”, accusing his brother-in-law, Hayder Sadik, of supporting this campaign against him that was motivated by the Iraqi government seeking to “silence nationalist voices that reject its sectarian policy and its involvement in the Iranian plot.” He claimed that Hayder Sadik was responsible for “persuading my sisters by force and under duress to give false testimonies about the incident.” He added, “No one was able to contact the remaining members of the family because Iraqi authorities had disabled their mobile phone services.”
For her part, Hajar Smouni, head of the Middle East and North Africa desk at Reporters Without Borders stated that the organization is concerned and angry for two reasons: Firstly, it is inconceivable that someone lies in this manner, and secondly, due to the damage that such lies can cause to other Iraqi reporters who are indeed being subjected to torture and vengeful acts of violence and whose relatives are really being killed.
Smouni stated, “For us, this case is not yet closed. We will continue our investigation in order to uncover the truth behind what really happened with al Kawwaz and his family.” Finally, she added that until the truth is revealed, al Kawwaz would be given the benefit of the doubt, especially in light of the press release he issued recently.