The International Federation of Journalists today backed calls from Reuters news agency for the United States to release Iraqi journalist Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani who has been held incommunicado in the infamous Abu Grahib prison outside Baghdad for two weeks.
“There is an intolerable denial of basic rights here,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This man is being denied visitors and there is growing concern about his welfare. The US authorities should reveal what, if anything, he is charged with or free him immediately.”
The IFJ says that Iraqi journalists, even those working for foreign and western news organisations, are being consistently targeted by the US military and that there are rarely proper inquiries into claims of abuse and maltreatment.
Al-Mashhadani is a freelance cameraman and a well-respected member of the news team who has been working for Reuters for a year in Ramadi, capital of Anbar region. His predecessor for Reuters in Ramadi, Dhia Najim, was shot dead during fighting between US Marines and insurgents last year. Colleagues fear that he may be the latest victim of a military prejudice against reporters who respond quickly to incidents that have led to false accusations of journalists being tipped off about insurgent attacks.
A spokesman for the US authorities said this week that detainee operations in Iraq, said al-Mashhadani would not be allowed visitors for another two months.
The IFJ is backing the calls by Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger who is calling for the US authorities act speedily to clarify with news organisations any suspicions arising from the activities of journalists and to allow access to Mashhadani.
Mashhadani was arrested on August 8 by US Marines who examined his cameras and film during a routine search of his house. “There is nothing in this man’s published work to suggest that he is anything other than an honest professional,” said White. “His treatment adds to our concern that Iraqi journalists are being singled out for unfair treatment.”
A number of Iraqi journalists working for media organisations have been wrongly accused by US forces. Last year, three Iraqis working for Reuters and another with the US network ABC were arrested after arriving swiftly in an area where a helicopter had been shot down near Falluja. They accused US soldiers of sexually and physical abuse during three days of detention before their release. Some Iraqi journalists working for foreign news organisations have been detained for months and some are still in custody.
Two Reuters cameramen, Ukrainian Taras Protsyuk and Palestinian Mazen Dana, have been killed by US troops since the war began two of the14 cases of media staff killed by US soldiers in the conflict that are still unexplained and have been the subject of a global campaign for independent investigations.
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The IFJ is representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries