New Reuters death brings inquiry calls

After a Reuters cameramen was killed by soldiers in Baghdad, the news agency has been supported by journalists’ groups in its call for a top-level investigation into the conduct of the US Army in Iraq.

Palestinian Mazen Dana was shot by US soldiers while filming outside Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital. They said they mistook his shoulderheld camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

The International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders are both demanding an inquiry into the cameraman’s death. Dana, 41, is the second Reuters journalist to be killed since the start of the war. Taras Protsyuk was killed when troops attacked the Palestine Hotel on 8 April. Dana’s death brings the total number of media fatalities since the conflict began to 17. He had been filming the prison, which had recently been under mortar attack, when a tank began to move towards him.

According to reports from Reuters, a soldier from on top of the tank shot Dana, and film taken by the journalist recorded shots being fired as the tank approached. The US military said they had “engaged” an individual they thought was aiming an RPG at them, but later acknowledged it was a cameraman. Nael al-Shyoukhi, a Reuters soundman who was working with Dana, said: “They saw us and they knew about our identities and our mission.” The incident happened in the afternoon in daylight. “A soldier on the tank shot at us. I lay on the ground. I heard Mazen and I saw him scream and touching his chest.”

Reuters chief executive Tom Glocer said he was “deeply saddened to report the death of another Reuters journalist in Iraq – once again at the hands of US troops. Coming so soon after the death of Taras Protsyuk, also killed by a US tank, this latest death is hard to bear. That’s why I am personally calling upon the highest levels of the US Government for a full and comprehensive investigation into this terrible tragedy,” he added.

 

PALESTINE HOTEL REPORT ‘A CYNICAL WHITEWASH’

Dana’s death comes a week after international journalists labelled the US military-led inquiry into the attack on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel as “a cynical whitewash, unacceptable and contradictory”. Two journalists were killed in the attack but the inquiry report – released by US Central Command on 13 August, absolved soldiers of any wrongdoing.

It concluded that US troops acted appropriately and “in selfdefence”, when their tank opened fire on the hotel known to be the Baghdad base for over 200 foreign journalists. The International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have called for an independent investigation by international experts into the assault on the hotel.

IFJ general secretary Aidan White said that, while it was clear soldiers in the field were not to blame, “the political and military commanders who failed to tell them this hotel was off limits because it was home to up to 200 media staff were negligent and they have been let off the hook. This is a cynical whitewashing of a horrifying and avoidable tragedy.”

RWB general secretary Robert Ménard also rejected the findings of the inquiry, and the group is pursuing its own investigation, details of which will be released next month. “All the facts at our disposal indicate exactly the opposite – that there are no grounds for claiming self-defence – and saying this is a lie,” he said. “These findings are the umpteenth US military version of what happened on 8 April and they all contradict each other.”

By Wale Azeez

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