Palestinian Journalist’s Killing Inquiry Demanded
Watchdogs Demand US Inquiry into Palestinian Journalist’s Killing
World Media Furious over Mazen Da’na’s Death in Iraq
World media and human rights watchdogs demanded a public inquiry on Monday into the killing by US troops in Iraq of Reuters Palestinian television cameraman Mazen Da’na.
Da’na’s body was being returned to his wife Suzan for burial this week near his Israeli-reoccupied West Bank hometown of Hebron, this week. He leaves four children.
Palestinian journalists protested his killing Monday in Ramallah and Bethlehem.
Many journalists paid their respects to Da’na’s colleagues at the Reuters bureau in the Iraqi capital. His camera, shattered as he fell under fire, still filming, lay broken in a corner.
Da’na was the second Palestinian journalist to be killed by US forces occupying Iraq. Tareq Ayyoub of Aljazeera satellite TV station was killed by a US rocket in his offices in the Iraqi capital on April 8.
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) in Paris and other watchdogs urged Washington to investigate how, by the official US account, a soldier mistook Mazen Da’na’s camera for a grenade launcher on Sunday.
The CPJ, which honored Da’na with its International Press Freedom Award in 2001, called for "a full investigation into the shooting and a public accounting of the circumstances.”
"Words and images are a public trust and for this reason I will continue with my work regardless of the hardships, even if it costs me my life,”Dana said after accepting the CPJ award.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Brussels described Da’na’s death as "more tragic evidence of what appears to be casual disregard of journalists' safety by military commanders.”
"Despite the best efforts of journalists to identify themselves and to seek permission from military units to do their work, they are still being fired upon,” said IFJ chief Aidan White.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) said there must now be a "full and transparent” inquiry into the incident.
"The IPI is deeply concerned by the killing of Dana because it bears the hallmarks of an engagement policy which invites the allied military to shoot first and ask questions later.”
RSF Secretary General Robert Menard accused the United States of failing to conduct proper public inquiries into its previous killings of journalists -- notably those of Reuters’ Protsyuk and a Spanish cameraman at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel.
Reporters Without Borders demanded Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld carry out an inquiry that is "honest, rapid and designed to shed full light on this tragedy, not whitewash the U.S. Army.”
"Not only have U.S. troops committed numerous blunders during the war but -- at this point -- these have not been the subject of an investigation worthy of the name,” Menard said.
"The so-called inquiry by the Pentagon into the shelling of the Palestine Hotel...exonerates the U.S. army in a shameful way,” he added in a statement, urging Washington to publish its report in full. So far only an extract has been made public.
Reuters has also asked to see the full report.
London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International said foreign journalists had a high profile among civilian victims of action by US forces.
"They're definitely taking place on a very regular basis,” the human rights group’s Iraq researcher Said Boumedouha told Reuters. "This is increasing the anti-American feeling.”
The US acknowledged the killing and voiced regret.
"Last night we had a terrible tragedy,” US spokesman Colonel Guy Shields said in Baghdad. "I can assure you no one feels worse than the soldier who fired the shots.”
"I can't give you details on the rules of engagement, but the enemy is not in formations, they are not wearing uniforms. During war time, firing a warning shot is not a necessity. There is no time for a warning shot if there is potential for an ambush,” Shields told a news briefing.
American troops in Iraq are on high alert. Guerrillas have killed dozens of them in the past few months.
In a report last month, Amnesty acknowledged the complex situation US troops faced in distinguishing combatants from civilians in Iraq. But it urged them to ensure their combat troops respected basic UN rules on civilian policing.
The US military declines to estimate numbers of civilian deaths but admits to some instances of troops killing civilians, notably when these have already been independently documented.
Reuters also wants a probe into the second killing of one of its cameramen by a US tank crew. On April 8, a shell killed Reuters’ Taras Protsyuk at Baghdad's media hotel. Troops said they thought a spotter was directing enemy fire.
"Coming so soon after the death of Taras Protsyuk, also killed by a U.S. tank, this latest death is hard to bear,” Reuters Chief Executive Tom Glocer said in a statement.
"That's why I am personally calling upon the highest levels of the U.S. government for a full and comprehensive investigation into this terrible tragedy.”
Mazen Da’na'’s death sent a chill through the hundreds-strong community of journalists covering the US fight against Iraqi resistance guerrillas.
"I saw Mazen. He screamed one time, and he was putting his hand on his chest and fell down on the ground and start screaming," said Nael al-Shyoukhi, who was working with Da’na as a sound technician.
"I saw him bleeding. I looked I saw the American soldiers around us, and I screamed to the same soldier who shot him, 'Why did you shoot him? We are TV. You see him with a camera, why did you shoot him?'"
No gunshots had been heard in the area before the military opened fire, al-Shyoukhi said.
"I don't understand why they start shooting at us. It was his last day in Baghdad, he was supposed to go to Amman (in neighboring Jordan), meet with his wife and children for a wedding of his nephew in Amman,” al-Shyoukhi said.