BAGHDAD, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The rise in attacks on Iraqi journalists has prompted renewed calls for government protection to ensure the availability of a free press in the country.
At least five journalists working in Iraq were killed and scores of others were injured since September. Just this week, Dyar Abas Ahmed, a journalist working in Kirkuk, was gunned down while on assignment.
In response, the Iraqi Committee to Protect Journalists called for official protection from national forces, saying militants seeking to undermine the freedom of the press were targeting its members.
The Iraqi government, however, says journalists are not the subject of targeted attacks, suggesting the recent uptick in violence, especially in the north, may be the contributing factor, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting said Friday.
Several local journalists, for their part, disputed the claims, saying Baghdad has not taken the threat seriously.
"If the government investigated the killing of journalists and punished those responsible, things would completely change and the journalists would be safe," said Rawhi Ahmed with the Iraqi station Radio al-Mahabba.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has presented Parliament with a draft measure calling for protection for Iraqi journalists.
"The bill the government presented to Parliament guarantees the protection of journalists and considers them an important part of Iraqi society," said Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.