Gunmen have stormed the offices of a new satellite channel in Baghdad, killing 11 staff according to Reuters.
According to the International Federation of Journalists – the latest killings brings the total number of media staff killed since the current conflict in Iraq began to 149.
Reuters said that gunmen arrived at the station in five or six four-wheel drive vehicles – some wearing police uniforms.
The staff were said to have been staying overnight and many were killed as they slept.
The IFJ warned of a "catastrophic rush towards civil war and lawlessness."
The IFJ said targeted attacks on media are increasing and this assault was one of the largest single attacks on Iraqi journalists, who account for the vast majority of media casualties at the hands of insurgents. The Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate said two journalists, general director Abdul Raheem Al Nasrawi and Hussien Zakker, were killed in the attack along with 7 others who worked as administrative staff or guards for the channel.
"This was a bloody and brutal assault," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. "When armed bandits make a dawn raid on a television station spraying bullets over media staff in their beds we are witnessing a catastrophic rush to civil war and lawlessness in Iraq."
The station manager said employees were staying overnight at the station, a new network which has yet to start regular broadcasting. Television and newspaper outlets in Iraq have become prime targets of insurgents and violent groups in the growing sectarian conflict.
According to Hassan Kamil, executive manager of Al Shaabiya, masked men killed the victims with shots to the head and chest.
"We are working closely with our colleagues at the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate to try to stem the flow of media casualties," said White, "but this is made ever-more difficult when media are targeted because of political affiliations. Owners must keep their hands off the editorial controls and leave the journalism to independent reporters. We need to expand the independent media landscape in Iraq as a matter of urgency."
Picture: an employee of the station talks to reporters (Reuters).