The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the US military to take action in the case of Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press (AP) photographer who has been held for more than five months by US forces in Iraq on accusations that he is a security threat.
In a report, the AP said it was told by military officials that Hussein, an Iraqi citizen, was being held for "imperative reasons of security" under United Nations resolutions. AP executives said the news cooperative's review of Hussein's work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system.
The IFJ is supporting calls from the AP and from its US affiliate The Newspaper Guild/CWA to either produce evidence that Hussein is a security threat and send him to trial or to end his detention.
“Bilal Hussein is being held in limbo and US authorities have failed to provide clear evidence that he is guilty of anything except doing his job,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. “Journalists routinely interact with adversarial sides in a conflict and Bilal’s pictures of insurgents in Iraq were simply the work of a committed photographer, not a security threat.”
The US military told the AP that Hussein was captured with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. "The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities," Gardner wrote to AP International Editor John Daniszewski, according to the published report.
Hussein has asserted his innocence and believes he has been unfairly targeted because of photos he took in Ramadi and Fallujah, his Iraqi lawyer, Badie Arief Izzat, told the AP.
The IFJ has sent a letter to US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld urging him to either transfer the case to the Iraqi courts or to let Hussein go.
The IFJ is calling on its member unions to send letters to Secretary Rumsfeld urging him to intervene to make sure Hussein is treated fairly and in accordance with international law.
“Iraqi journalists face extreme pressures as the try to provide an accurate picture of events there,” White said. “They must be allowed to their jobs. The government and military forces should focus on protecting their safety and legal rights, not detaining them indefinitely.”
For a copy of the IFJ letter, click here.
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries