Professional media groups worldwide are questioning the shootings and killings of journalists in Iraq.
US urged to probe Iraq media deaths
Aljazeera’s Tariq Ayoub was among those killed
Two US trade unions have called on the Bush administration to facilitate an independent inquiry into the record number of deaths of journalists covering the Iraq war.
I learned last night that the CBS journalist shot by U.S. troops is now detained as “an imperative threat to coalition forces.” Is there a concerted effort by the U.S. — in these repeated attacks — to intimidate, even kill, journalists in Iraq?
Friday marked the second anniversary of the U.S. attack on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, which “contained scores of reporters and media people reporting on the US invasion.”
Two journalists were killed and others wounded. On the same morning, a journalist was killed when the Baghdad offices of the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera was attacked by US fighter planes.
Eleven other cases of “unexplained killings in which US soldiers were involved” require answers.
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Spanish journalist Olga Rodriguez, who was wounded in the attack on the Palestine Hotel, says:
“I never imagined that American troops were going to attack journalists living in a place protected by international law.”
But when I arrived to Spain, I realized that all the society, Spanish society, was really, really, really touched because of this, and … the whole society was asking the government for an explanation and for an independent investigation. Almost two years ago now, still every month there are a lot of people in front of the American Embassy in this demonstration that the family of Jose Couso organizes … the 8th of every month. And now … the Spanish government has condemned the attack.
The Communications Works of America (CWA), along with AFTRA, issued this press release:
Media Unions Join Worldwide Call of Journalists for Investigation into Media Staff Deaths in Iraq
Washington, D.C.–In letters today [April 8] to President Bush, The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists called on the administration to “heed the requests from journalists around the world for an independent investigation into the record number of deaths among media staff covering the war in Iraq.”
President Linda Foley of TNG-CWA and Thomas R Carpenter, AFTRA National Director of News and Broadcast, sent the letters as part of the International Federation of Journalists‘ global campaign to keep a public focus on the dangerous conditions facing journalists and media staff covering the war in Iraq. Today is the second anniversary of the attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad by U.S. forces, in which two journalists covering the war were killed.
“We recognize, of course, that most journalists who die each year are killed by cruel extremists…and we unequivocally condemn those attacks” …
But the United States also must defend its “traditions of liberty and justice by addressing the concerns of journalists around the world,” she added. The Pentagon’s report about the Palestine Hotel tragedy, to date, has been inadequate and unconvincing, raising more questions than it resolved, her letter continued.
“Respect for a free and independent press is a critical component of the liberty that members of a democratic society enjoy. More than ever, it is critical to protect the values of freedom, liberty and justice” by responding to the request of journalists and the worldwide organizations representing them for a thorough and independent investigation …
From the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ):
Impunity, Justice Denied and Media Killings That Haunt the United States
The International Federation of Journalists today called on the United States government to end all speculation over targeted killings of journalists and media staff by providing “credible and convincing” reports on incidents in which 14 media staff have been killed since the invasion of the country in March 2003.
“The United States stands accused of failing to meet its obligations to deliver justice and fair treatment to the victims of violence by its own soldiers,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White in a letter to President George Bush. Similar letters calling for the US to carry out exhaustive investigation into these cases have been sent by IFJ affiliates to US officials and many countries.
“The ordeal of family, friends and colleagues of media victims continues as they wait for justice from the authorities about how and why their loved ones died,” said White.
The IFJ says that two years after the invasion of Iraq the pain of the war is deeply felt by journalists and media staff and particularly by Iraqi journalists themselves who joined today’s protests.
The Federation accuses the US of carrying out “whitewash” reports of the killings – and in many instances cases there have been no reports at all. …
From Olga Rodriguez:
The 8th of April, we woke up early in the morning, and we saw some tanks already on the bridge. They were not hiding. They were there. When the attack happened, I saw them the first time like four hours before the attack on the bridge. I was in the 16th floor of Palestine Hotel, and I was waiting for a phone call from my radio station in Spain, because I had to be on the air, and I was on the balcony. Suddenly, my phone rang, so I went inside the room. And when I was doing that, the attack came. At first, I thought that I was dead. I felt completely empty inside me. I couldn’t hear anything. Then five seconds later, I reacted. I started to touch myself. I discovered some blood in my leg, and I decided to run. … [Read
the entire interview with journalist Olga Rodriguez
Through the Spanish documentary, “Hotel Palestine: Killing the Witness,” we hear “interviews with numerous journalists who were inside the Palestine Hotel, the AP reporter embedded with U.S. forces at the time of the attack, as well as the U.S. tank commander who pulled the trigger.”:
NARRATOR: Barely minutes after the attack and with almost no possibility of having contacted their forces still on the bridge, U.S. officials announced their first version of the incident.
VINCE BROOKS: Initial reports indicate that the coalition force operating near the hotel took fire from the lobby of the hotel and returned fire.
REPORTER: Continuing on the point you made there, if you are claiming fire was coming from the lobby of the Palestine Hotel, why was this tank round directed at an upper floor?
VINCE BROOKS: There’s intermingling that happens on the battlefield, and I don’t have enough information to say exactly how the dynamics of the battlefield came together today.
REPORTER: David Chater has been reporting to us by telephone during the extraordinary events.
NARRATOR: Journalists working at the Palestine Hotel categorically deny this version of events.
DAVID CHATER: They knew exactly that there were journalists here and that there were cameras pointing at the tank battle going on from these balconies. It’s extraordinary that they should come up with this excuse, saying that we have all got to hang white sheets out of the window to identify ourselves because there were sniper rounds coming out of the building. I never heard a single shot coming from any of the area around me, certainly not from the hotel.
CARLOS HERNANDEZ: [translated] All of us there knew there had been no hostile fire at all against the American tanks, neither from the hotel, nor from the hotel’s surroundings.
JESUS QUINONERO: [translated] I sat for about five hours, positioned on the hotel terrace. I heard no shooting …
NARRATOR: There is an obvious fact that contradicts this first version from the U.S. forces. More than 1,500 meters separate the Palestine Hotel and the tanks, far beyond the effective range of a rifle or a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Associated Press correspondent Chris Tomlinson was embedded with the second battalion of the third infantry division.
CHRIS TOMLINSON: I think that was something that the soldiers started to say after the fact to try to protect themselves from criticism. But as you pointed out, if you go stand where the tank was and look at where the Palestine is, there’s no — an RPG cannot fire that far, a sniper rifle may be able to reach that far. AK47s certainly can’t shoot that far. …
Visit IFJ for a detailed list of all 14 cases in which journalists were killed in Iraq in incidents involving US forces, and the IFJ letter to President George W. Bush click on the following pdf document: Letter to President Bush.
As for what WE can do, I suggest we write letters to our senators, our members of the House, and to the White House. Any other ideas most welcome.