Journalists refuse to quit Najaf

Defiant: Macintyre opts to stay put

Three British newspaper reporters defied an Iraqi police warning to ‘leave Najaf or die’ this week forcing the authorities to backdown, writes Dominic Ponsford Adrian Blomfield, of the Daily Telegraph, Donald Macintyre of the Independent and Stephen Farrell of the Times are all working from the Najaf Sea hotel in the city.

On Monday, one policeman reportedly told journalists: “We are going to open fire on this hotel. I’m going to smash it all – kill you all”.

Along with other foreign journalists the three decided collectively to stick together and defy the ban. The journalists are understood to have decided there was safety in numbers and that all would abide by the group decision.

By Tuesday the gamble appeared to have paid off. Police chief Ghalab alJazaari told reporters that the order for them to leave the city had come from the ministry of the interior which was concerned that the insurgents were being seen as heroes in press coverage.

But he said he had now told Baghdad that the order for journalists to leave Najaf was unworkable.

Deputy foreign editor of the Independent Stephen Khan said: “The paramount consideration in all of this has been Don’s safety, and that’s come from the very top of the newspaper and stressed by Simon Kelner.

“There was no pressure on Don to do anything that he didn’t want to do.

We decided that the safest thing was to make decisions based on information from journalists themselves.”

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