Global Report 18.02.05

WASHINGTON

The unmasking of an alleged journalist who used a pseudonym to gain
access to White House briefings and news conferences is raising more
questions about the Bush administration’s tactics for securing
favourable news. James Guckert, who used the Talon News byline “Jeff
Gannon”, managed to get access to the White House on a daily basis for
two years. Guckert questioned the President at a briefing last month.
The Houston Chronicle reports: “He tossed a softball query that
ridiculed Democrats for ‘being divorced from reality’.” The
organisation Guckert worked for turned out to be an arm of a partisan
group, GOPUSA, a conservative website based in Houston.

MEXICO

The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the attack on
Mexican journalist Jorge Cardona Villegas, who covers crime in the
northern state of Nuevo Leon. Since the attack, he has gone into
hiding. Cardona’s house and car were hit by several rounds of bullets,
fired by a group of assailants. The police found more than 50 bullet
cases from a machine gun. Cardona works for the Televisa network
affiliate in the city of Monterrey.

Neither Cardona nor other staff had received any threats. News
director Juan Cobos believes the attack came in retaliation for a
report on the cases of kidnapped or missing US citizens in the border
city of Nuevo Laredo. Relatives of victims alleged in the report that
local authorities were involved.

VATICAN CITY

The Pope has appealed for the liberation of an Italian journalist
and others kidnapped in Iraq, the Zenit News Agency reported. Giuliana
Sgrena of Il Manifesto was kidnapped in Baghdad on 4 February. Others
who have disappeared in Iraq include French journalist Florence Aubenas
and her guide Hussein Hanoun.

CANADA

An Edmonton police chief has been fired after months of public
furore over a sting operation in which officers tried to ensnare a
journalist on a drink-driving charge. Edmonton’s police commission,
which oversees the force, terminated the contract of chief Fred Rayner
in a bid to regain public trust in the department’s leadership, which
came under fire from levels as high as Alberta’s Justice ministry.
Rayner, in the job for less than 12 months, was ousted a day after he
stepped down to take medical leave. The uproar intensified after the
release of evidence from a review of the operation targeting Kerry
Diotte, an Edmonton Sun columnist who had been critical of the police.
Officers had traced Diotte to a bar where they made jokes about his
appearance, the quality of his columns and where he lived. Police
staking out the bar had hoped to catch him drink driving.

GUYANA

The media in Guyana is mourning the loss of one of its own – a death
that brings home the reality and seriousness of the situation following
the heavy floods that have ravaged the country. The deceased is
33-year-old Joseph “Lil Joe” Thomas, who worked for the Kaieteur News.
He is believed to be a victim of the dreaded leptospirosis which is
currently causing great fear in the country.

His widow told the press: “He is not a person who normally gets
sick.” Staff at the Kaieteur News are concerned over two other
hospitalised colleagues who are showing leptospirosis symptoms.

IRAQ

A previously unknown militant group claimed the killing of Abdel
Hussein Khazaal, 40, a correspondent with the US-funded Arab television
station Al-Hurra , who was gunned down with his fouryear- old son in
Basra. Reporters Sans Frontieres said: “This horrible act serves as a
reminder that Iraq is the world’s most dangerous country for
journalists, with 31 killed since the start of the war in 2003. These
killers are also killing off news reporting in Iraq and in the end it
is the Iraqi people who will pay.”

BANGLADESH

A journalist has died days after being wounded in a bomb attack in
Khulna City, reports the Indo Asian News Service . Sheikh Belaluddin,
staff correspondent of the Dhakabased Bengali daily Sangram , was one
of four journalists injured at the Khulna Press Club. His funeral is
pictured. Journalists have been repeatedly targeted in Khulna in the
past year.

Humayun Kabir, editor of Bangla daily Janmabhumi, was killed near
his office last June. Then in January Manik Saha, Khulna bureau chief
of the Dhaka-based daily New Age and a stringer of BBC Bengali Service,
died in a bomb attack.

PHILIPPINES

A witness to the killing of Mindanao journalist Edgar Damalerio has
himself been gunned down, reports The Inquirer . Edgar Amoro, one of
two principal witnesses of the murder of Damalerio in May 2002, was
killed at the gates of a school. The other witness is in hiding. The
funeral made a stopover at police headquarters and city hall, aimed at
awakening the police and local government to the crimes taking place.

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