IFJ Protests Over Baghdad Arrest of Journalists And Questions Coalition Media Strategy

The International Federation of Journalists today called on United States forces in Iraq to explain why troops arrested three journalists in Baghdad working for the Arabic television channel Al-Aalam.

“These arrests are the latest in a series of incidents that raise questions over what media strategy is in place to protect journalists from harassment,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

The Al-Aalam network, one of the most popular sources of news in Iraq since the US-led invasion, says Sami Hassan, Zoheir Mostafa and Ghuran Tofiq, reporters and cameramen were detained yesterday in front of the central police building in Baghdad.

US officials have not commented yet on the reasons for the arrests, which come at a time of increasing concern about treatment of journalists. The Somali Journalists Network on Sunday protested over the harassment by US soldiers of journalists Ali Mohammed Halane and in April, American marines arrested another reporter of Al-Aalam. Abdol Hadi Zeighami was arrested while reporting on US tanks entering the town of Kut, around 170 km southeast of Baghdad. He was released after five hours of detention, but the film which the Al-Aalam crew had shot was confiscated.

“These actions indicate that journalists continue to be subject to unacceptable pressure,” said Aidan White. “The military administration must come clean about why arrests are taking place and explain each incident. It is unacceptable to have arbitrary and unexplained actions that are tantamount to intimidation.”

Controversy still rages around the killings by coalition soldiers of journalists in April. Reuters' cameraman Taras Protsyuk and a reporter for the Spanish television network Telecino, Jose Couso, died after a US tank opened fire at Hotel Palestine in Baghdad. On the same day Al-Jazeera television reporter/producer Tarek Ayoub was killed in a US air strike on the company’s offices in Baghdad. Earlier, outside Basra, ITN journalist Terry Lloyd was killed and two journalists – Fred Nerac and Hussein Osman – remain missing after coalition forces shot up their marked vehicle.