Reuters has rejected an explanation from the US military following the shooting of cameraman Dhia Najim in Iraq and have called for an investigation into the incident along with the return of his camera.
Najim was killed on Monday and is the 62nd journalist to die in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003. He was hit in the back of the neck by a single bullet while filming in the Andalus district of Ramadi, which lies 68 miles west of Baghdad in the mainly Sunni area of central Iraq.
The first response from the US military to Reuter’s questions said that “Marines from the First Marine Division of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force engaged several insurgents in a brief small arms firefight that killed an individual carrying a video camera earlier Monday morning.”
Reuters said that video footage of the incident showed no apparent fighting and no sounds of shooting in the vicinity before Najim was killed. He filmed heavy clashes between Marines and insurgents earlier in the day but that fighting had subsided.
The video shows Najim, at first half hidden by a wall, move into the open. As soon as he emerges, a powerful gunshot cracks out and he falls to the ground. Civilians can be seen gathering calmly at the scene immediately afterwards.
Reuters global managing editor, David Schlesinger, said: “We reject the clear implication in the Marine’s statement that Dhia was part of an insurgent group. This claim is not supported by the available evidence. I strongly urge the US military to conduct a proper investigation into this tragic event.”
The International Federation of Journalists has spoken out on the increasing level of danger to journalists in Iraq as Najim’s death followed the bomb attack on the Baghdad office of Arab television channel Al Arabiya at the weekend, killing a number of its employees. The IFJ raised concerns over the incident in which Najim was killed. Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary said: “We need to be certain that journalists are not the victims of reckless behaviour or poor soldiering that can and should be avoided.”
“We need more action to reduce risks and we need clear answers to hard questions about why our colleagues are being killed.”
“The news business is the target of terrorist manipulation and violence on a scale not seen for decades, but we are also seeing casualties that could have been avoided. We need to know why they are not.”
Najim leaves his wife, three daughters and a son
By Caitlin Pike