Anger over controversial reports, one by Israel over the killing of journalist James Miller in Gaza and a second by the United States into the death of Italian secret agent Nicola Calipari, shot while freeing journalist Giuliana Sgrena from captivity in Iraq, underline the need for international law to guarantee a “credible process” of independent inquiry into civilian deaths in such cases says the International Federation of Journalists.
“The military in Israel and in the United States have created a culture of whitewash and self-exoneration,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary today. “The killing of media staff and those working with them requires a credible process of investigation and truth-telling, not evasion and self-justification.”
The IFJ was responding to reports this week that the investigation into the incident on March 4 in which US soldiers killed Calipari and injured Sgrena, a reporter for the left wing daily, Il Manifesto, completely exonerates those involved. Sgrena was being driven to safety after a month held hostage by terrorists when her car was fired upon near Baghdad airport.
The report according to information from Washington clears US soldiers of any responsibility for the killing, despite evidence – including from the injured reporter – that the shooting was unjustified.
“It is another hand-wringing expression of regret and failure to take responsibility for the deaths that come from reckless soldiering,” said White. “There have been 14 deaths of media staff in Iraq where questions about the actions of US soldiers remain unanswered and in which justice has been denied.”
The IFJ last month strongly criticised the Israeli authorities for their “cruel and heartless whitewash” over the killing of cameraman James Miller who was shot dead by a soldier in Gaza while waving a white flag. The Israeli army said the soldier responsible for the killing could only be disciplined for violating rules of engagement because of a lack of evidence, prompting furious claims of evidence tampering by Israeli soldiers and of deliberate incompetence in the investigation process.
“These cases highlight all too clearly how the military, even from democratic countries, attack and kill journalists and civilians with impunity,” said White. “These cases and others involving media people at least get some attention, but the truth about what is happening to the Iraqi people remains untold.”
On April 8th this year, a day of annual protest over media killings and the anniversary of a US attack on the Palestine Hotel, a media centre in Iraq, the IFJ and journalists’ unions around the world protested over the lack of credible investigation into 14 media deaths in Iraq involving US troops.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries