The International Federation of Journalists today called on the United States government to end all speculation over targeted killings of journalists and media staff by providing “credible and convincing” reports on incidents in which 14 media staff have been killed since the invasion of the country in March 2003.
“The United States stands accused of failing to meet its obligations to deliver justice and fair treatment to the victims of violence by its own soldiers,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White in a letter to President George Bush. Similar letters calling for the US to carry out exhaustive investigation into these cases have been sent by IFJ affiliates to US officials and many countries.
April 8th marks the second anniversary of the United States attack on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, which at the time contained scores of reporters and media people reporting on the US invasion. Two journalists were killed and others wounded. On the same morning, a journalist was killed when the Baghdad offices of the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera was attacked by US fighter planes. The IFJ says there are another 11 other cases of unexplained killings in which US soldiers were involved that require answers.
“The ordeal of family, friends and colleagues of media victims continues as they wait for justice from the authorities about how and why their loved ones died,” said White.
The IFJ says that two years after the invasion of Iraq the pain of the war is deeply felt by journalists and media staff and particularly by Iraqi journalists themselves who joined today’s protests.
The Federation accuses the US of carrying out “whitewash” reports of the killings – and in many instances cases there have been no reports at all.
“These reports follow the same unconvincing and incredible pattern: secrecy over the detail and nature of the report, a failure to examine all the evidence, paltry and cruelly insensitive shrugs of regret, and complete exoneration of responsibility of US personnel at all levels of command,” said White. “It is denial of justice on a shocking scale.”
The IFJ says that the April 8th has come to symbolise for many the crisis of impunity which sees scores of journalists killed in targeted assassinations each year, but few are the subject of serious investigation and only a handful ever lead to prosecution of those responsible.
The IFJ recognises that most targeted journalists are the victims of cruel extremists “with whom it is impossible to make a moral compact.”
“We condemn unreservedly those attacks and the people behind the current wave of hostage taking which has seen the kidnapping of our colleagues Florence Aubenas, of Liberation, her driver Hussein Hanoun as well as Romanian reporters Eduard Ohanesian of Romania Liberia, Marie-Jeanne Ion and Sorin Miscoci of Prima TV”.
We will campaign vigorously for their release and for the isolation, arrest and trial of all those responsible for murder and kidnapping of journalists,” said White.
But at the same time, the IFJ says the United States needs to act to defend its traditions of liberty and justice by addressing the concerns of journalists around the world over the failure to take responsibility for the deaths of journalists and media staff in Iraq.
“A prompt and convincing response to the questions raised over these deaths will end speculation over the targeting of journalists and media and provide irrefutable evidence for Iraq journalists and the people of Iraq that the democracy now in the making will deliver justice for all,” said White.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries