The International Federation of Journalists has warned that an American threat to target Iraqi media in the Gulf war could escalate into a "media bloodbath" in which all journalists will be targeted.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated yesterday that America might target Iraqi television and radio stations for military strikes. His suggestion comes after Iraq enraged US leaders by parading captured American soldiers on television.
"A revenge attack on Baghdad television and radio stations will create conditions for targeting of media on all sides with inevitable loss of life to journalists and media staff," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary today. "We have already had journalist casualties but this sort of strategy could lead to a media bloodbath."
The IFJ says that broadcast media, even when in the hands of state-controlled institutions, should not be targeted. "Only institutions that are being used for military purposes can be legitimate targets in wartime," said White, "targeting Iraqi media will only open the door to reprisals against hundreds of foreign media staff working in Iraq."
Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based, Arabic-language satellite network, broadcast pictures Sunday of U.S. soldiers recorded by Iraqi television. Iraqi TV said the soldiers were killed in action or captured near Nasiriya on the Euphrates River. The video showed five captured U.S. soldiers, who said their names, as well as the bodies of four soldiers, some of whom had gunshot wounds to their foreheads.
The IFJ has criticised the Iraqi action, which Rumsfeld claimed was a breach of Geneva Conventions, and said that media on all sides must act professionally when covering prisoners of war. "The consequence of hitting Iraqi media is that more journalists will be put at risk," says the IFJ. "Targeting journalists will not win the war; it will only threaten the lives of reporters and lead to even more rumour, speculation and ignorance about what is happening."