IFJ Demands Inquiry Over Claim of Reporters

The International Federation of Journalists today demand an "immediate and full inquiry" into reports that three foreign journalists were arrested by US forces in Iraq, beaten up and detained for 48 hours.

The journalists - two Israelis and a Portuguese television reporter - were allegedly held by US troops and accused of espionage. "If true, this maltreatment of journalists is a grave violation of journalists' rights. This incident must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice," said the IFJ.

The journalists, Dan Scemama, of Israel's Channel 1 TV, Boaz Bismuth of the Israeli Yediot Aharonot and Louis de Castro of Radio Television Portugal, were traveling alongside American convoys, but were not officially "embedded" with the troops. According to statements from relatives and colleagues the journalists were forced to stop on Tuesday, beside six tanks, because of sandstorms. The Americans advised them not to move because they would not be identified in the dust. Early on Wednesday soldiers woke them up, at gunpoint, took them away and accused them of espionage.

The reporters were told to pick up their shirts and let down their pants to prove they were not carrying bombs and they were later kept in a closed jeep for 36 hours. The Portuguese journalist asked to phone home and was allegedly beaten, his ribs were broken and he is now in hospital. One of the Israeli journalists was also beaten. Yediot Aharonot, concerned about loss of contact with the journalists, asked the Pentagon to help find them. After 48 hours, a helicopter flew the reporters to an American military base in Kuwait where they were released and given their telephones back.

The Sindicato dos Jornalistas, the IFJ affiliate in Portugal, has protested over the incident. "We share the concerns of our colleagues," said the IFJ, "this appears to be an outrageous failure of military discipline, and those responsible must be investigated." The IFJ is also asking one of its affiliates, The Newspaper Guild in the United States, to take up the case with the Pentagon.