Iraq is 'the most dangerous war ever for journalists', says NUJ

More than 50 media workers have now died covering the war in Iraq, according to the International News Safety Institute.

Journalists responded to news of the grim landmark in the 17-month conflict by calling for the Iraqi authorities and employers to take action now to reduce the risks for media personnel.

Suggested measures include improving press accreditation and increasing rates of pay for freelances.

According to INSI, which advises media organisations on safety, the killing of kidnapped Italian freelance Enzo Baldoni last Thursday brought the death toll in the current conflict to 51. It compares with an estimated 63 journalists killed in the 21-year Vietnam war and 58 killed in Algeria’s civil war of 1991 to 1996.

INSI says 37 journalists have died, and 14 support staff. Included in its list are several journalists killed in car crashes and the NBC correspondent David Bloom, who died of a pulmonary embolism while covering the war. NUJ spokesman Tim Gopsill said: “This has become the most dangerous war ever for journalists and says a lot about the state to which the US has reduced that country.”

Lee Gordon, a freelance who has spent more than a year reporting from Iraq, said: “There are things news organisations can do to make the situation better and the biggest gripe is money. Some broadsheets are paying freelances £400 for a page lead which could be a couple of weeks work.

When you are on that kind of money you have to cut corners over the drivers and translators you use and the hotels you stay in.

“There is also the question of accreditation – some newspapers are using freelances who don’t have press accreditation with them.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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