Iraq: Dean and two professors of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad threatened after fighting corruption
In the past week in Iraq, the dean of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad, and two members of the faculty who have been fighting corruption, have received threats for their work from a daily newspaper, online sources and unknown telephone calls.
On 25 May 2019, journalist Dr. Hashim Hassan Al-Tamimi, the dean of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad, published a statement on his Facebook page saying, "I have endowed my years and wasted my youth and lost the pleasures of life to serve the causes of the homeland and the human being and to confirm that the press is a noble messenger and the price is that the entire state, by its own law and authority, fails to protect me from a corrupt faction."
On 23 May 2019, a daily newspaper carried out a defamation campaign against Dr. Al-Tamimi (pictured at left), when it published on its front page a headline alleging that he has "forged" his passport.
Dr. Al-Tamimi, in addition to being a staunch academician, has practiced journalism since 1974 and has written many articles demanding the end of rampant corruption in various Iraqi state facilities.
On 26 May 2019, journalist Dr. Nabil Jassim (pictured at right), a professor at the College of Media at the University of Baghdad and the editor of the Baghdad Today Agency, received several communications from a mobile phone clearly and directly threatening him and his family if he does not stop publishing documents related to the corruption of a private bank. The unknown callers told him that they knew where he lived.
Starting two months ago, Dr. Jassim and his colleagues in the Baghdad Today Agency published several documents on large-scale corruption, alleging money laundering carried out by a private bank and in coordination with government officials.
Dr. Jassim has carried out extensive activities in the defense of freedom of expression, as well as contributing to the establishment of a number of civil society organisations.
In a separate incident, writer Dr. Erada Zidan Al-Jabouri (pictured in the middle), Assistant Dean of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad, is facing a fierce electronic campaign over a question she routinely includes in the exam paper for a course on “media and digital education” for the students of her college. The question was phrased as a media article dealing with corruption in order to train students to professionally address the news and to monitor the technical and stylistic errors contained in the text.
Dr. Al-Jubouri began writing at the age of 12 and used her writings, academic and media work for change and end corruption. She participated in many peaceful protests.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses its concern for the safety of the three faculty of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad, as well as for freedom of expression, and calls on the Iraqi government to:
- Protect journalists and academics who are writing about corruption in the country, and specifically to investigate threats against Dr. Nabil Jassim and bring those responsible to justice;
- Respect academic freedom in relation to the types of the questions included in exams, and end interference in the university’s academic practises; and
- Ensure that the highest standards of professionalism are upheld by newspapers and media regulatory bodies, and call for an apology to be issued to Dr. Hashim Hassan Al-Tamimi from those who are leading the smear campaign against him.