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  • Tuesday, February 15, 2005


    Killing Journalists in War Zones

    There is a steady stream of reports of journalists being deliberately targeted by Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least one of these instances was partially documented in Control Room, a documentary about Al-Jazeera. Without investigation it's difficult to sort out the truth for all the instances of deaths of journalists in these areas. The reporters are, after all, in a war zone. But some of the cases are quite damning on the face of them. This is from They Shoot Journalists, Don't They?:

    News executives like Jordan, Sambrook, and senior figures from Reuters have spoken about their concerns for some time, and leading British journalists, like Robert Fisk of The Independent and Janine di Giovanni of The Times, have written of the pattern of violence against journalists which they’ve witnessed. While news executives may know of incidents which are not part of the public record, they also tend to cautiously cite only those which are well documented by the press freedom groups, and this may ignore other incidents which those groups have avoided discussing.

    For example, the killing of two journalists by a U.S. tank crew as they took pictures from their Baghdad hotel in 2003 was thoroughly described by veteran journalists — dozens of whom were present — and was the subject of a public battle waged by Reuters to hold the military to account. As with every other incident involving journalists, the U.S. military exonerated itself. But the presence of the world’s media in the hotel was well known to military commanders, leading to the suspicion that the killing wasn’t accidental.

    But another possible murder of journalists was reported in the British press, though it — perhaps for lack of corroboration — has inspired less outrage. At the outset of the invasion, journalists were warned by the U.S. military not to operate independently in Iraq, and one British TV reporter, with his crew, died attempting to do so. The Mirror newspaper in the U.K. reported that witnesses watched a U.S. military helicopter kill the journalists. Other journalists attempting to operate independently in Iraq were detained by U.S. troops, and, in the early days of the invasion, U.S. forces threatened — according to a senior British reporter — to launch missiles against media organizations transmitting pictures out of Baghdad. U.S. missiles had already killed more than a dozen reporters in Afghanistan (where Al-Jazeera, Radio Kabul, and the BBC were attacked in 2001) and Serbia (where Serbian TV, along with CNN facilities, were attacked in 1999).

    Both the Arab television media and the international news agencies have borne the brunt of the violence. CPJ and the other journalists’ organizations record a large number of lethal and non-lethal attacks by U.S. troops on Arab journalists. A senior Al-Jazeera correspondent was arrested, released, and re-arrested in Spain without clear charges, and an Al-Jazeera cameraman has been detained in Guantanamo Bay for four years. In Iraq, two Iranian journalists were detained for four months without charge. Two Al-Jazeera employees reported that they were tortured by U.S. troops last year, and the Associated Press reported that an Arab cameraman working for a European broadcaster said, after being attacked by U.S. troops, “They checked our identity badges and then let us go, saying they thought we were with Al-Jazeera. ...” Several Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya journalists have been killed by U.S. forces in well-documented incidents. Robert Fisk wrote with alarm about an attack by U.S. troops which he witnessed on a clearly marked press vehicle, again, driven by Arab journalists.

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