Published On: Wed, Dec 28th, 2016

Baghdad’s $15 mn Security System Can’t Protect Journos Critcal of Systemic Abuse of Power

Fahwad Al-Khadoumi (nsnbc) : Following the kidnapping of Iraqi journalist Afrah Shawqi from her home in Baghdad late Monday, Saad al-Matlabi, a member of Baghdad Governorate’s security commission criticized Baghdad’s new $15 million security system. Matlabi might be missing the mark said nsnbc editor Christof Lehmann, adding “security systems tend not to work when a journalist criticizes systemic abuse of power”.

afrah-shaqwi_baghdad_uraq_dec-2016Saad al-Matlabi, a member of Baghdad Governorate’s security commission, told members of the press on Wednesday that the kidnapping of reporter Afrah Shawqi, allegedly by a yet unknown armed group of eight, is evidence of the failure of the so-dubbed “Baghdad Eagle” security system.

The $15 million system was introduced in January with the aim of tightening scrutiny of vehicles moving across the capital and lessen car thefts and other security breaches. Baghdad security authorities had urged car owners to register data of their vehicles at the new system to better track stolen cars and combat security violations. Al-Matlabi added:

“The project is a waste of public funds and a sort of covert financial corruption. The cameras had failed to detect the launching point or destination of the armed group. … Those cameras are not connected with the Interior Ministry, but are rather run by monitoring employees at the governorate council, and shut down as soon as the official working shifts end.”

Speaking with nsnbc international editor-in-chief Christof Lehmann over the phone he noted that he doesn’t want to insult Mr. al-Matlabi, not imply that any people tied to the government or security services have been involved in the kidnapping. However, he added:

“The notion that a camera system, whether it is connected to the Ministry or not, and the registration of vehicles should help prevent the kidnapping of a journalist is preposterous. For one, it is easy to duplicate license plates, drivers licenses, and in Iraq, to bribe police officers”.

Lehmann also commented on the fact that Afrah Shawqi criticized systemic abuse of power by the very security services that should have protected her, saying:

“Government-operated security systems tend to fail when a journalist criticizes the very system or members of that system that should protect them. It is a trend that  sadly can be observed in many, if not in most countries. Mind that Afrah Shawqi recently criticized the security services after an assault by an Interior Ministry officer on a school teacher in the province of Dhi Qar. Shawqi”.

When the teacher rejected his demand, the Interior Ministry officer reportedly assaulted her, according to Shawqi. Social networks users had circulated photos of the officer and his colleagues, all plain-clothed and carrying weapons inside the school. Shawqi wrote on her Facebook page early Tuesday before her disappearance:

“There is nothing worse in a country than humiliating a teacher; nothing is worse than neglect by those who carry weapons. If the state is anxious to preserve its prestige, it should hold accountable whoever uses weapons illicitly.”

Lehmann added that it too early to say what exactly happened, but that he wouldn’t be surprised if “connecting cameras to the Interior Ministry services” could arguably have made it even more easy for disgruntled ´officials` to kidnap the journalist”. Seven reporters died in Iraq in 2016, out of a total of 57 who died in conflict areas across the world, according to a recent report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

F/AK – nsnbc 28.12.2016

About the Author

- Fahwad al-Khadoumi is a Palestinian, born in Syria in 1956. He began as editorial assistant in 2013 and became co-editor at nsnbc international in 2014. His editorial signature in as co-editor in nsnbc is F/AK - nsnbc ..date. He can be reached by e-mail at nsnbc.wordpress@gmail.com

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