Casual Disregard for Media Safety
From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) | 18 August 2003
The International Federation of Journalists has called for an independent and open inquiry into the killing yesterday afternoon of a cameraman in Iraq by US troops, only days after the Federation accused the Pentagon of a “cynical whitewash” over a previous attack on media in which two journalists were killed.
The shooting of Mazen Dana, an award-winning journalist working for the Reuters news agency, is “more tragic evidence of what appears to be casual disregard of journalists’ safety by military commanders,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Despite the best efforts of journalists to identify themselves and to seek permission from military units to do their work they are still being fired upon.”
The shooting happened at Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, where six Iraqis were killed in a mortar attack late on Saturday. The US military said soldiers had mistaken Mazen Dana’s camera for a rocket propelled grenade launcher.
But the IFJ says that the incident happened in broad daylight, that the camera team had established contact with soldiers in the vicinity to explain their mission and that they had received permission to film the prison from a nearby bridge.
“This was an avoidable tragedy,” said White. “There must be a full, independent and public inquiry. We need to know what went wrong and why. We cannot accept that this is brushed aside as just another regrettable incident in the chaos of war.”
The IFJ is particularly concerned that journalists working independently and not part of the group travelling under the supervision and protection of the US military – the so-called “embedded” journalists – are particularly at risk.
Last week the IFJ called for an inquiry into the Pentagon’s report on the military strike at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8 when two journalists, one of them another Reuters cameraman, Taras Protsyuk, and Spanish journalist Jose Couso, a cameraman working for the Telecinco network, were killed and several others wounded.
The hotel was known to be the home to scores of foreign journalists. The IFJ has dismissed the report as a “cynical whitewash” and called for a new inquiry.
“In view of these incidents we must ask whether or not it is safe for independent journalists to work in Baghdad,” said White. “The only way the United States military can restore confidence that they are not ignoring the safety and security of independent media staff is to explain fully why these tragedies happened and to make sure they put in place procedures to avoid such incidents in future.”
The IFJ is calling on all journalists working in Iraq to exercise extreme caution and to recognise that the risk levels involved still remain at a peak. “Dana lost his life even though he was a highly experienced journalist, having spent 10 years working for Reuters, primarily in the hazardous area within the West Bank city of Hebron”, said White.”
The total death toll of media in Iraq since the beginning of the war on March 20, now rises to 20 dead and two journalists still missing Four of the journalists have died after the official ending of the war, by the President, George Bush on May 1.
For full details of the victims during and after the war, see the IFJ website: www.ifj.org