IFJ calls for Iraq probe after Palestinian journalist shot dead by US troops

Mazen Dana

The International Federation of Journalists has called for an independent and open inquiry into the killing yesterday afternoon of a cameraman in Iraq by US troops, only days after the Federation accused the Pentagon of a “cynical whitewash” over a previous attack on media in which two journalists were killed.

The shooting of Mazen Dana, an award-winning journalist working for the Reuters news agency, is “more tragic evidence of what appears to be casual disregard of journalists’ safety by military commanders,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “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.”

The shooting happened at Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, where six Iraqis were killed in a mortar attack late on Saturday. The US military said soldiers had mistaken Mazen Dana’s camera for a rocket propelled grenade launcher.

But the IFJ says that the incident happened in broad daylight, that the camera team had established contact with soldiers in the vicinity to explain their mission and that they had received permission to film the prison from a nearby bridge.

“This was an avoidable tragedy,” said White. “There must be a full, independent and public inquiry. We need to know what went wrong and why. We cannot accept that this is brushed aside as just another regrettable incident in the chaos of war.”

The IFJ is particularly concerned that journalists working independently and not part of the group travelling under the supervision and protection of the US military – the so-called “embedded” journalists – are particularly at risk.

Last week the IFJ called for an inquiry into the Pentagon’s report on the military strike at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8 when two journalists, one of them another Reuters cameraman, Taras Protsyuk, and Spanish journalist Jose Couso, a cameraman working for the Telecinco network, were killed and several others wounded.

The hotel was known to be the home to scores of foreign journalists. The IFJ has dismissed the report as a “cynical whitewash” and called for a new inquiry.

“In view of these incidents we must ask whether or not it is safe for independent journalists to work in Baghdad,” said White. “The only way the United States military can restore confidence that they are not ignoring the safety and security of independent media staff is to explain fully why these tragedies happened and to make sure they put in place procedures to avoid such incidents in future.”

The IFJ is calling on all journalists working in Iraq to exercise extreme caution and to recognise that the risk levels involved still remain at a peak. “Dana lost his life even though he was a highly experienced journalist, having spent 10 years working for Reuters, primarily in the hazardous area within the West Bank city of Hebron”, said White.”

The total death toll of media in Iraq since the beginning of the war on March 20, now rises to 20 dead and two journalists still missing Four of the journalists have died after the official ending of the war, by the President, George Bush on May 1.

Media Victims in the war in Iraq

22 March: ITN News correspondent Terry Lloyd was killed in an incident on the Southern Iraq war front. The ITN team came under fire, apparently from Coalition forces, outside Basra. Two other members of the team, cameraman Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Osman are officially still missing.

22 March: cameraman ABC Australia Freelance cameraman Paul Moran, 39, died instantly in a suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint in Sayed Sadiq in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq near the Iranian border, he was the last of a string of journalists traveling through the checkpoint which had been taken by Kurdish opposition fighters from terrorists 24 hours earlier.

30 March: Channel 4 foreign affairs correspondent Gaby Rado was found dead on Sunday in the car park in front of his hotel in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. It is believed that he fell from the roof of the hotel, and that there is no connection with military action.

2 April: Award-winning BBC cameraman Kaveh Golestan has died while covering the war in Iraq after stepping on a mine when he got out of his car. Golestan, an Iranian national, worked for the BBC in a freelance capacity for the past three years.

4 April: the Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large and Washington Post columnist, Michael Kelly, was killed in a Humvee accident while traveling with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Kelly’s death is the first among the 600 correspondents participating in the Pentagon’s embedding program.

6 April: David Bloom, an American journalist, died apparently of natural causes, while covering the war for NBC as an embedded journalist near Baghdad. The cause of death is reported as pulmonary embolism.

6 April: Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed, a Kurdish translator working for BBC in Northern Iraq died after being seriously wounded, apparently by an American bomb.

7 April: Spanish journalist Julio Anguita Parrado of the newspaper El Mundo and German journalist, Christian Liebig with the magazine Focus, were killed when an Iraqi missile hit south of Baghdad. Both journalists were embedded with U.S. 3rd infantry forces.

8 April: The Arab network Al-Jazeera lost one of their reporters in Baghdad. Tareq Ayoub was seriously wounded when the network’s office on the bank of the Tigris River was struck by a U-S bomb. He later died.

8 April: Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters, and Spanish Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso died after a US tank fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, which was used as a base by the foreign media. At least three other journalists were wounded.

12 April: Gunmen ambushed and kidnapped three Malaysian journalists in Baghdad, killing their Iraqi interpreter

14 April: Argentine freelance journalist Mario Podesta died in a car crash near Baghdad. Podesta was travelling in a convoy of press vehicles some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Baghdad when the accident happened. A second Argentine journalist, Veronica Cabrera died the next day from injuries sustained in the same accident.

12 May: American journalist Elizabeth Neuffer, 46, a senior reporter with the Boston Globe, was killed in a road accident on 8 May as she was returning to Baghdad from Tikrit where she had interviewed former Baath Party officials. Her interpreter, Walid Khalifa Hassan al-Dulami, was also killed.

5 July: a sniper shot and killed 24-year old British freelance journalist, Richard Wild, outside Iraq’s Natural History Museum. Wild was standing in a crowd in the midday sun when he was killed by a single, small caliber bullet fired into his head at close range.

6 July: Jeremy Little, a 27-year old Australian television soundman for NBC, died on 6 July of injuries sustained one week ago in a rocket-propelled grenade, which was fired at the car in which he was travelling. Little, another young freelancer, was embedded with the U.S. Third Infantry Division in the town of Falluja.

17 August: Mazen Dana, a 43-year old Palestinian cameraman for Reuters, was shot dead on 17 August by US troops on a tank at Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad. The US military said soldiers had mistaken Mazen Dana’s camera for a rocket propelled grenade launcher.