The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the United States to "tell the whole truth" about the killing of journalists by its soldiers in Iraq after a military source claimed that the US army deliberately targeted a media hotel in Baghdad leading to the death of two journalists at the start of the war.
The attack by a US tank on the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad on April 8th 2003, the day before Baghdad fell, led to the killing of Spanish journalist Jose Couso, a cameraman for the network Telecinco, and Ukraine-born Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk. A number of others were injured in the hotel which was home to around 150 journalists and media staff at the time.
This week in a dramatic revelation to the internet news and current affairs broadcaster Democracy Now! former army Sgt. Adrienne Kinne reveals she saw secret US military documents that listed the hotel as a possible target, exposing as a cover-up the United States claim that the attack on the hotel was an accident
She also claims she was personally ordered to eavesdrop on Americans working for news media and NGOs working in Iraq.
The IFJ has led a five-year campaign over the killings at the Palestine Hotel calling for a full investigation into the incident and disputing strongly the claims of the United States, first that the attack was in response to hostile fire from the hotel (later dropped) and then that the attack was an innocent mistake in the heat of battle.
"Slowly the awful truth about the events of that day are emerging," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "This latest information adds to our concern that the failure to properly investigate and report on this attack is covering up the reality that the United States was recklessly putting media lives at risk."
The need for full disclosure is further reinforced says the IFJ by the decision of a Spanish court on Tuesday to throw out murder charges against three US soldiers accused of killing Jose Couso at the Palestine Hotel, citing grounds of "insufficient evidence." The National Court in Madrid scrapped the charges laid by Judge Santiago Pedraz in April 2007 against US Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp ordering the case to be definitively dismissed. "Efforts to achieve justice have been actively thwarted by the scandalous refusal of the United States to co-operate with the courts in providing information," said White.
The IFJ also says that the US airstrike attack on the offices of the Arab satellite channel Aljazeera on the morning of the same day which led to the death of reporter Tareq Ayyoub has never been properly explained. The US is also under fire over the killing of the UK television journalist Terry Lloyd in Basra at the start of the war. Three members of an ITN news team, including cameraman Fred Nerac and Hussein Osman, were killed. But a British court says that in Lloyd's case the US military were culpable.
"There has been an intolerable denial of justice in all of these cases," said White. "It is time there was a comprehensive, independent and inclusive investigation that clears the air, dispenses with lies and deception and tells the truth about American involvement in these tragic incidents."
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For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide