Journalist group calls US to account over Iraq

Media Guardian (United Kingdom)

Journalist group calls US to account over Iraq

Dominic Timms
Friday February 18, 2005

The US government was today accused of hiding behind a “culture of denial” over the deaths of at least 12 journalists who are alleged to have perished at the hands of the US military in Iraq.

Re-igniting the debate that US soldiers deliberately “targeted” journalists during the Iraqi occupation, a press freedom body called on the US to take “responsibility” for its actions in the country.

Responding to what it said was the “hounding out” of the CNN news chief, Eason Jordan, the International Federation of Journalists called on the US administration to come clean over its “mistakes” in the region.

Since US, British and other soldiers first began Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, more than 70 journalists have been killed in the country.

The IFJ said that at least 12 journalists had met their deaths at the “hands of US soldiers”, including the killings of Taras Protsyuk of Reuters and Jose Couso of Spain’s Telecinco after US tanks opened fire on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.

The US military claimed the tanks had been responding to small arms fire coming from the hotel, which housed journalists who were non-embedded with military forces, but later withdrew the claim saying: soldiers fired at “what was believed to be an enemy firing platform and observation point”.

Almost a year after journalists’ groups first demanded it, a US military investigation into the attack found that “no fault or negligence” could be attributed to US soldiers.

As part of a move to establish a new journalist body in Iraq, to be known as the Iraqi National Journalists Council, the IFJ said it would hold demonstrations across the country on the anniversary of the Palestine Hotel attack.

“On that day journalists around the world will once again protest over impunity [and] secrecy over media deaths and, in particular, at the failure of the United States to take responsibility for its actions in Iraq which have led to the killing of journalists,” said the IFJ general secretary, Aidan White.

He said that the resignation of CNN’s Eason Jordan had been orchestrated by a vitriolic campaign by the US right wing.

Mr Eason was forced to quit after suggesting that that US forces had deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq, though he later clarified his comments, saying that he never meant to imply that “US forces acted with ill intent when US forces accidentally killed journalists.”

Mr White said the CNN news executive had been “hounded out by a toxic mix of hysteria, intolerance and ignorance” and said the IFJ would continue its campaign “until Washington is ready to admit its mistakes”.

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