In an excellent Guardian interview this week, John Simpson gave vent to his anger about the deaths of reporters in Iraq. The loss of life, he maintained, was a direct consequence of the decision to embed journalists with British and US forces, since any journalists outside that arrangement had, in essence, to take their chances.
Simpson speaks, of course, from personal experience. His young translator, Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed, was killed in a “friendly fire” incident for which he still feels a terrible burden of responsibility.
Yet Simpson’s anger at the “carelessness” that led to 16 deaths (and two more who are missing presumed dead) and the dismissive way in which US authorities have dealt with subsequent inquiries about them, should be shared by all of us.
As he says, “This was the worst loss of life for journalists and nobody seems to be making a fuss about that.”
A good place to start is by getting hold of a copy of Dying to Tell the Story, a book published last week by the new International News Safety Institute that pays tribute to all of those, including Muhamed and ITN’s Terry Lloyd.
The book also provides thoughtful reminder that, successful though embedding of journalists may have been, it cannot be right that the “unilaterals” are apparently being targeted by sophisticated military operations intent on preventing them from bearing witness. Or that in other conflict zones, reporters clearly identifying themselves as press, as UK journalist James Miller did in Gaza, can be cut down so callously with so little redress.
Nine months after the first death in Iraq, six months after Miller’s shooting by Israeli troops, too many unanswered questions remain about the circumstances of too many of these killings.