Report Accuses United States Over Iraq Media Deaths: “Profound Denial of Justice”

International Federation of Journalists’ calls for:

  • An Independent probe into unexplained killings;

  • New rules to make targeting of media and negligence over journalists’ safety a war crime;

  • A Global campaign to demand justice for media victims.

  • The International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest journalists’ group, today issued a detailed report on the Iraq war and called for a “global campaign to expose the secrecy, deceit and arrogance of the United States authorities” surrounding the killing of up to seven journalists during and after the war.

    The IFJ Report, Denial of Justice on the Road to Baghdad, examines the safety of journalists during the conflict and focuses on four separate incidents in which journalists were killed or are still missing, presumed dead.

    “These incidents have caused outrage within journalism worldwide,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren. “It is shocking that after six months the families, friends and colleagues of the victims still await credible explanations about how and why they died.”

    The report, prepared by IFJ General Secretary Aidan White, accuses the United States of “flagrant disregard” for the safety of journalists by not instructing military commanders and soldiers in the field to avoid hitting media targets.

    In particular, the IFJ says the US should come clean over

  • The US tank attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, the home to more than 150 media staff, in which two journalists, Jose Couso, a cameraman for Telecinco in Spain, and Taras Protsyuk, working for Reuters, were killed;

  • The shooting-up of an ITN camera crew involving US ground and airborne forces near Basra, in which reporter Terry Lloyd was killed. His two colleagues, Fred Nerac and Hussein Osman, are still missing, presumed dead;

  • A US airborne missile attack on the Baghdad office of the Al-Jazeera television in which reporter Tareq Ayoub was killed; and

  • The shooting by US troops in broad daylight of award-winning Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana who was reporting from a prison in Baghdad weeks after the war was officially over.

    “In all of these cases the United States has either failed to report or has failed to publish the results of its own investigations,” said Aidan White. “It has exonerated itself from any responsibility and has passed over the lies and deceit of its own people in response to eye-witness testimony that challenges official US accounts of events. It is a most profound denial of justice.”

    The IFJ report was launched just a day after a meeting in Madrid of Spanish journalists’ leaders, media organisations and the family of Jose Couso, one of the Palestine Hotel victims, and endorsed the proposal for a global campaign involving media, journalists, human rights groups and international legal experts.

    “We are not looking for scapegoats,” said Aidan White. “In most cases we know the individuals who pulled the trigger. But we must challenge those who are responsible for the culture of neglect and arrogance that puts media staff in harm’s way when they are reporting from a war zone.”

    In theory, says the IFJ, existing rules should protect journalists and media staff. “But they do not work. We need clear and explicit laws that will strengthen protection for media staff and ensure that every killing of a journalist in a war zone is subject to full and independent investigation,” said White. “Recently, the UN Security Council strengthened protection for humanitarian workers, the same should be done for media staff.”

    The Report welcomes the establishment of the International News Safety Institute, a global coalition of media groups, which aims to improve levels of training and safety for journalists reporting from conflict areas. There are also calls for more action to protect freelance journalists, who are among the most vulnerable people reporting from a war zone, and warnings about the threat that “embedded” journalism poses to objective reporting.

    “The Iraq War was by any stretch, the most extensive and expensive media campaign in recent history. It was also the most dangerous,” says the Report.

    The IFJ has written to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan calling on him to urge the United States to end its secrecy over the deaths of media personnel and to support demands for the independent investigation of the killings of journalists and media staff during the war.

    “The injustice in Iraq must not be allowed to pass,” said White. “A war fought in the name of democracy should not trample over the rights of people to know the truth.”

    Click here to download the report

    Further information: + 32 2 235 22 00

    The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries