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Media coverage of Iraqi Mosul op ‘censored & suppressed’ – RT reporter in embattled city

The Iraqi Army keeps press coverage of its operation in Mosul “censored and suppressed,” only allowing access to certain locations, RT’s Murad Gazdiev, reporting from the scene, says, as the UN warns of soaring civilian casualties.

When Murad Gazdiev arrived in the embattled city to cover the latest events, Iraqi officers warned his crew not to film what is being done to the city.

Gazdiev gave as an example an operation to dismantle a bomb, apparently left behind by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants in one of the houses.

Iraqi troops made the decision to blow up the building rather than demine it. They also did not allow the media to cover the event.

“So apparently they’ve found an IED – and explosive device left behind by ISIS in a house over there – a booby trapped house. They’re going to blow it up – but they aren’t going to let us film. They say it’s not worth the fuss of disarming it – so instead, they’re going to blow up the house,” Gazdiev said.

He added that “undesirable footage” is confiscated and journalists are “threatened with bans for negative coverage.”

“Information is contained. One of the biggest and deadliest battles of the 21st century – is actually also one of the most censored and suppressed,” he said, adding that all journalists in Mosul are guided by Iraqi media officials.

On Saturday, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq released casualty figures for March – the deadliest month since the start of 2017, with 548 civilians killed.

READ MORE: ‘Wherever we went, we got bombed’: Mosul refugees slam Iraqi & US anti-ISIS offensive (EXCLUSIVE)

The majority of deaths (367) took place in Nineveh Province, where Mosul is located. 

“The terrorists have used every possible wicked way to inflict casualties on civilians,” Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Ján Kubiš said.

According to information verified by the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), at least 307 people were killed in the war-stricken city between February 17 and March 22. Also, between March 23 and 26, around 95 civilians were killed in Mosul neighborhoods, the UN added, citing reports. It is not yet clear if the UN included the casualties from the March 17 incident in the death toll.

In one of the deadliest incidents of the Mosul siege, dozens of people lost their lives in the Jadida neighborhood on March 17. A video of the aftermath of the attack was released by AP almost a week later. 

There have been conflicting casualty reports for that particular incident. The US insists that up to 200 civilians were killed in the coalition airstrike which apparently targeted IS snipers, while the city’s municipality chief, Abdul Sattar al-Habbo, said the death toll of the attack was as high as 240. 

In the meantime, the UK-based monitoring group Airwars says the number could be much higher. 

Confirming that the US is conducting its own investigation into the incident, the Pentagon admitted that its air power could have been a contributing factor to the civilian death toll.

READ MORE: ‘Unintentional accident of war’? Pentagon says it ‘probably’ played role in 200+ Mosul deaths

“My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties. Now, here’s what I don’t know: What I don’t know is were they [the civilians] gathered there by the enemy? We still have some assessments to do,” Lieutenant General Steve Townsend told a Pentagon news briefing, adding that there are numerous conflicting reports about the extent of the damage from the March 17 strike. 

READ MORE: Hundreds of Mosul civilians killed by airstrikes were told not to flee by authorities – Amnesty

Mounting evidence of underreported civilian deaths in Mosul has recently been criticized by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Both organizations slammed the modus operandi of the US-backed military campaign.