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 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 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