Skip to main content

Mobs storm newspapers in Baghdad

By Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling, CNN
updated 5:32 AM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
An man inspects the damaged office of the al-Mustaqbal newspaper in Baghdad on Tuesday following the attack.
An man inspects the damaged office of the al-Mustaqbal newspaper in Baghdad on Tuesday following the attack.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A story about Shiite cleric Mahmud al-Sarkhi angered supporters
  • It claimed al-Sarkhi plans to wrest control of the religious authority in Karbala
  • U.N. mission in Iraq calls attacks "unacceptable under any circumstances"
  • A spokesman for al-Sarkhi says his office had nothing to do with the assaults

Baghdad (CNN) -- The angry mobs barged into the newspaper buildings, in the heart of bustling Baghdad. They smashed equipment, stole files, beat up guards and workers, and tossed one person from a roof.

The assaults, which unfolded simultaneously Monday, apparently stemmed from outrage over a story seen as critical toward a Shiite cleric in Karbala. Police investigated the incidents on Tuesday.

The U.N. mission in Iraq slammed the assaults as "unacceptable under any circumstances." UNESCO in Iraq stressed concern over the impact of the attacks.

"Freedom of expression is a crucial element for establishing true democracy and building sustainable peace in Iraq," UNESCO Director in Iraq Louise Haxthausen said.

Before the attacks, Younis al-Arraf, editor of the Parliament, said he met with angry followers of Mahmud al-Sarkhi, a firebrand Shiite cleric, according to the Journalistic Freedom Observatory (JFO), an Iraqi media watchdog.

They discussed a piece in the Parliament suggesting the cleric is planning to take over the Shiite religious authority in Karbala by force.

The article also said the al-Sarkhi's residence in Karbala, in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq, resembles an armed camp, with the location protected by dozens of followers armed with sticks and knives.

Al-Arraf said he explained to the people incensed with the article that it was written by a news agency, not produced by the paper itself.

But later, attackers entered the buildings of four independent dailies in Iraq's capital -- the Constitution, the Iraqi Future, the People and the Parliament, the observatory said.

At least six people were injured, police said.

Employees of a fifth Baghdad daily newspaper, al-Mada, received threats on Tuesday, the paper's director general told CNN. Mada means "range" in Arabic.

A spokesman for the cleric said his office had nothing to do with the attacks and condemned them. The JFO condemned the attacks and called on authorities to investigate and protect journalists.

After the fall of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and and the advent of democracy, a vibrant media scene has emerged in Iraq, with a slew of newspaper and broadcasting outlets independent or affiliated with political movements.

But journalism can be a perilous calling in Iraq, one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to practice in since 2003, when the war there began.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq reported on this story from Baghdad; CNN's Joe Sterling reported from Atlanta.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:42 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT