IFJ Condemns Targeting of Iraqi Journalists and Calls on US Army to Release Television Reporter

The International Federation of Journalists today expressed concern over the targeting of Iraqi journalists by military authorities and called on United States forces to release a leading television reporter detained without explanation two weeks ago.

Majed Hameed, a reporter for the Al Arabiya News Channel, is one of a number of journalists to be detained without charge or explanation from the authorities. In recent months several Iraqi reporters working for international news organisations have been held for lengthy periods without being charged.

“We are very concerned that there is no word about why he has been held in what appears to be a premeditated action against him,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This man is acknowledged as a hard-working professional whose work has taken him into some of Iraq’s most dangerous places from where he has delivered much ground-breaking journalism.”

The IFJ says that Iraqi journalists whose energy and resourcefulness is producing some of the most telling reporting from the region are also among those most likely to face harassment from the military.

“There have been a number of cases of journalists being targeted simply because they get to the scene of an incident quickly. In the eyes of the army this is suspicious, but in effect they are penalised for doing their job too well,” said White.

Al Arabiya say that Hameed has been an eye-witness to combat incidents between US forces and armed groups in Falluja, al Qa’em, Ramadi, Hadeetha, Rawa and most recently Tella’far, where he was the only broadcast reporter in the spot in a major confrontation. His reports have received global coverage.

But he was arrested away from the front line, while attending the mourning of a family member in Al Anbar area where he was among a number of people detained. He was taken by US forces to the neighbouring Al Anbar detention facility.

Last week, freelance cameraman Samir Mohammed Noor working for Reuters, who was arrested by Iraqi troops at his home in the northern town of Tal Afar four months ago, was found by a secret tribunal to be ‘an imperative threat to the coalition forces and the security of Iraq. At least four other journalists working for international media are being held without charge by the US military in Iraq.

“These detentions, which appear to have been calculated actions, make no sense at all,” said White. “There should be an official explanation as to the whereabouts of all our colleagues and concrete reasons for their arrests. If not, we can only assume that once again Iraqi journalists brave enough to try to report freely are being victimised.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries