New Iraqi Killing Sparks Fresh Questions Over US Actions

The International Federation of Journalists today called on the United States military to immediately investigate the killing of an Iraqi television correspondent during clashes between U.S. forces and Sunni rebels in Ramadi.

On 24 January, Mahmoud Za'al, 35, a cameraman and reporter for the Iraqi television station Baghdad TV was shot in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, while working on a social documentary. According to local reports, Za’al was allegedly shot in a cross-fire between US forces and insurgents and his dead body was hurried to the forensic unit in Baghdad hospital by the security services.

“The US forces must confirm their role in our colleague’s killing and investigate immediately any possibility of the military’s responsibility in his death,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “If not allegations of recklessness and indifference on the part of the US military will continue”.

According to Ahmad Rushdi, the director of the Baghdad TV news department, Mahmood had been detained by US forces earlier this week and the TV channel immediately called for the US embassy to react. The embassy contacted Rushdi and told him that Za’al would be released on Wednesday, as they agreed a time and a venue for his release. Rushdi said that he was subsequently “shocked to hear the news of Za’al’s death on Tuesday.”

Mahmoud was the fifth Baghdad TV staff to be detained by the US forces. He was with a colleague and they both went their separate ways in the Ramadi district, shooting images for a social documentary covering the devastating impact of car bombs on the state of the roads, shops, electricity and water supplies in Ramadi. Za’al was in an area that was already circled with US soldiers. He had his press ID on him and was carrying his camera.

The IFJ is supporting an initiative from Baghdad TV, which is campaigning for an end to impunity and the killings of journalists and media staff in Iraq. The local campaign will be initiated in an investigative report to be broadcast this evening.

“With 19 journalists and media staff killed in Iraq involving US forces and several more cases of illegal detentions, the US military must now provide credible answers to the serious questions raised in each of these cases,” said White. “Already two Iraqi journalists have been killed this year and the evidence is that 2006 is going to be another year of murder and sacrifice for media in Iraq”.

The IFJ plans to organise worldwide protests on 8 April this year to highlight demands for more action against impunity. This day is the anniversary of the US attack three years ago on the Palestine Hotel, a media centre in Baghdad, in which two journalists, Taras Protsyuk of Reuters and José Couso of the Spanish network Telecinco, were killed. Another reporter, Tareq Ayyoub, died on the same day when the US bombed the offices of Al Jazeera in the city.

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