Death of Dana not 'justified'

Dana: death was not justifiable; inset, Protsyuk

Reuters has “fundamentally disagreed” with the Pentagon’s verdict that the death of cameraman Mazen Dana at the hands of American soldiers in Iraq was “justifiable”.

It has received a copy of the US investigation into his killing, following a seven-month campaign by Reuters for access to the report.

Reuters global managing editor David Schlesinger said the news agency “does not agree with the findings of the report that Dana’s death was justified based on the information available at the time”. But he welcomed the “thoroughness of the report” and its recommendations to make the battlefield safer for journalists.

The recommendations include weekly security briefings for media organisations by the military; better communication and co-ordination between troops on the ground regarding the presence of non-embedded journalists; better accreditation processes; a review of the US military’s rules of engagement and better methods of identifying journalists in the battlefield.

However, because the Pentagon’s proposals have not been scheduled, Reuters also demanded they be put into action immediately – in particular the weekly security briefings “which could start tomorrow”.

“They also need to make clear what we can implement now and what’s going to take more time. Let’s put some deadlines on these things and make them happen,” a spokeswoman said.

Schlesinger added: “We believe that the Reuters staff killed in Iraq, Taras Protsyuk [killed when a US tank shell hit the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad] and Mazen Dana, would both still be alive if the recommendation regarding improved communications between US units in the field and the military’s high command had been implemented.

“In recent months the safety of journalists in Iraq has deteriorated significantly. To avoid further needless loss of life it is imperative these recommendations be implemented immediately throughout all areas of conflict.”

While Reuters said it endorsed the recommendations, it said there were “other incidents” for which the agency was awaiting responses from the US State Department.

These include the treatment of two local Reuters journalists and a driver, who were detained and allegedly roughed up by US soldiers in Fallujah. Reuters wants the US Army to prove or withdraw accusations that “the enemy were now posing as journalists” in a bid to attack the coalition forces.

By Wale Azeez

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