The International Federation of Journalists today accused the US authorities in Iraq of attempting to “control and intimidate” the media, following the recent detention of several Korean journalists by the US forces in Baghdad.
On 6 March, the US military in Iraq detained three Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) journalists for close to four hours on suspicion of carrying explosives. The journalists were all handcuffed and held in custody based on “internal regulations”, despite the fact that the Korean Embassy in Iraq had confirmed their identifications and had called for their immediate release.
“Such actions are absolutely unacceptable,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It is very difficult not to interpret this as a direct attempt to intimidate the media.”
After finding that there were no traces of explosives in their luggage and finally acknowledging that they were bona fide reporters covering the ongoing reconstruction process in Iraq, the journalists were eventually released.
The IFJ is supporting its affiliate, the Journalists Association of Korea, which is calling on the US military in Iraq and the US administration to apologise and to make public “internal regulations” on the basis of which the US military authorities detained the journalists.
“These regulations are used to control journalists, but journalists are ignorant of what they are and how they are applied,” said White.
This latest incident comes as the right of all journalists to enter Iraq to cover all sides of the story without the need for a licence, specific permission or accreditation by the US authorities has been restricted. At the beginning of March, US forces announced that all journalists currently in or arriving to Iraq must register with and obtain a press card from them.
As part of an international campaign, the IFJ has declared April 8th – the anniversary of the attack by United States military on a Baghdad hotel filled with foreign journalists in which two were killed – a day of mourning and protest over the killings of journalists during the Iraq war and the “abject failure” of the Pentagon to carry out adequate investigations and to publish the findings.
“The detention of our Korean colleagues, like other incidents in recent months, confirms our feeling that the US military operate with a sense of impunity when it comes to dealing with journalists,” said White. “They act like all journalists are potentially hostile and that puts all reporters and media staff at risk.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries