Reuters demands action after another journalist is killed

By Dominic Ponsford

Reuters global managing editor David Schlesinger has demanded
immediate action from the US military after a fourth journalist from
the agency was killed in Iraq.

Soundman Waleed Khaled, 35, was driving his car on assignment in
West Baghdad on Sunday when he report edly came under fire from a US
sniper and was killed. Cameraman Hiader Kadhem, 24, was wounded in the
back and was released on Wednesday after being detained by US troops
for three days.

London-based Schlesinger told Press Gazette of
the agency’s frustration at making progress with the US military – more
than two years after a US tank fired on Palestine Hotel in Baghdad,
killing Reuters cameraman Taras Protsiuk.

Schlesinger said: “It
remains extremely difficult to operate journalistically in Iraq and
we’ve not been able to make much progress in a campaign to improve
training for the military.

“It’s not a transparent process, the
investigations are not as impartial as they should be and the findings
are not made as public as they should be.”

He added: “Our main
concern is that the training given to the US military does not appear
to identify that the car coming towards you with Iraqis in it could be
filled with journalists. That’s a big concern because Reuters
everywhere in the world employs local journalists as full staffers.

“The
most important thing is an immediate, impartial public investigation
which makes very clear why they were fired upon and for the military to
draw the necessary lessons.

“We would like a much faster response
to this tragedy that involves real action to make sure these things
don’t happen again.”Khaled was described by Reuters as a “popular and
jovial presence in the Reuters bureau for more than two years”.

Some 200 friends and colleagues attended his funeral on Monday.

A
US military statement about the incident said: “Task Force Baghdad
units responded to a terrorist attack on an Iraqi police convoy
…which killed and wounded several Iraqi police. One civilian was
killed and another was wounded by small arms fire during the attack.”

According
to the International Federation of Journalists, the death of Khaled
brings to 18 the number of journalists and media staff killed by US
troops since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

These include ITN’s
Terry Lloyd who was killed in April 2003, after being shot in the head
when (according to an ITN investigation) the civilian minibus taking
him to hospital came under fire from an American helicopter gunship.

The
IFJ this week wrote to the United Nations to demand an independent
inquiry into this and the other unexplained media deaths in Iraq at the
hands of the US military.

General secretary Aidan White said in the letter: “The number of unexplained killings by US military personnel is unacceptable.

“Often
it appears that media organisations and journalists’ families face a
wall of silence and an unfeeling bureaucracy that refuses to give clear
and credible answers.”

The London-based International News Safety
Institute said: “There is no firm evidence that US troops have
deliberately targeted the news media.

But there is widespread
suspicion that American troops do not take adequate precautions to try
to ensure the safety of journalists.”

CAMERAMAN HELD WITHOUT CHARGE

A Reuters cameraman being held by the Americans in Iraq has been
ordered by a secret tribunal to be held without charge in Baghdad’s Abu
Ghraib prison until his case is reviewed within six months, a US
military spokesman said on Wednesday writes Caitlin Pike.

Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani was arrested by US forces on 8 August
after a search of his home in the city of Ramadi. The US military has
refused Reuters requests to disclose why he is being held. He has not
been charged.

The US military said al-Mashhadani would not be
allowed to see an attorney, his family or anyone else for the first 60
days of his detention.

Reuters global managing editor David
Schlesinger said: “I am shocked and appalled that such a decision could
be taken without his having access to legal counsel of his choosing,
his family or his employers.

“I call on the authorities to
release him immediately or publicly air the case against him and give
him the opportunity to defend himself.”

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