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Role of US Military in Media Killing, Iraq

New Media Killing Sparks IFJ Calls to UN for Special Investigation into Role of US Military

The International Federation of Journalists today said that the shooting of a Reuters sound technician by United States troops in Iraq at the weekend brings to 18 the number of journalists and media staff killed by US troops since the invasion of Iraq.

“The number of unexplained media killings by US military personnel is intolerable,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Media organisations and journalists’ families face a wall of silence and an unfeeling bureaucracy that refuses to give clear and credible answers to questions.”

In a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, today, the IFJ called upon UN leaders to establish an independent inquiry into the killings of media staff at the hands of US and coalition forces.

“The United Nations has, in theory, a responsibility to ensure that international law and the rights of victims in this conflict are properly protected,” writes the IFJ. “The time has come for the UN itself to step in and demand that there is justice and respect for basic humanitarian rights on the part of democratic countries involved in this conflict.”

The IFJ accuses the US army of incompetence, reckless soldiering, and “cynical disregard” for the lives of journalists – particularly Iraqi – who are covering events in Iraq.

The shooting of Waleed Khaled in the Hay al-Adil district of west Baghdad, an incident in which cameraman Haider Kadhem was wounded, brings to 70 the number of Iraqi media staff killed since the US invasion in March 2003. Altogether, and counting all essential media staff including drivers and translators, the IFJ says 95 journalists and media staff have died in the Iraq conflict.

“The toll is appalling, but the fact that 18 of these deaths are at the hands of US soldiers and that there are still questions to be answered more than two years after some of the incidents is particularly shocking,” said White.

The IFJ is backing Reuters in their demands for the immediate release of Kadhem who is still being held by US forces more than 24 hours after the killing of his colleague. The US military said it was still investigating and refused to say what questions it was putting to Kadhem. It would not say where in Baghdad he was held nor identify the unit holding him.

"The fact that Iraqi police say that the news team was shot by US soldiers raises serious suspicions of a cover-up by the US military which must be answered immediately," said White.

The IFJ is asking the United Nations Security Council to take up their concerns. “We believe that a full, independent and inclusive inquiry into all of these cases is urgently needed in order to en sure that media have confidence that governments are honouring their obligations.”

The IFJ acknowledges that many of the incidents may have been unavoidable in the context of the war, but in a number of cases there are serious questions still to be dealt with that have given rise to suggestions of deliberate targeting of media staff. “We need to clear the air, but we also recognise that in a period of transition to Iraqi authority it is necessary to set the highest standards possible for the investigation and reporting of all incidents in which journalists and media staff are killed,” said White.

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