Wednesday, April 09, 2003

More Journalists Killed in Iraq

Yesterday, following last weeks deaths of Michael Kelly and NBC's David Bloom a U.S. tank shell hit a hotel where hundreds of journalists were staying, and a U.S. bomb landed on the office of an Arab television network in the Iraqi capital, killing a total of three journalists and wounding three others. The reason I am posting news Item is that the circumstances behind their deaths raised my eyebrows. The circumstancses are somewhat suspect, with a statement from U.S. Central Command in Qatar indicating that "U.S. forces had fired on the Palestine Hotel -- an 18-story hotel along the Tigris River -- after troops received "significant" enemy fire from there. However, journalists who were standing on balconies of the hotel, taking pictures, said they saw no signs of firing from the hotel before they saw a tank fire from a bridge a little more than a half-mile away. A Ukrainian cameraman, Taras Protsyuk, 35, was killed and three other Reuters employees were wounded. Spanish television network Telecinco said its cameraman, Jose Couso, 37, was hit in the leg and jaw and died after surgery. Across the river to the west, Tareq Ayyoub, a Jordanian correspondent for the Arab television network Al Jazeera, was killed earlier in the day when a U.S. bomb landed on the network's Baghdad office. An Abu Dhabi TV office in the same area was damaged by a round, knocking down a camera, but no one was injured.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a group that defends press freedoms, demanded an investigation in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "We believe these attacks violate the Geneva Conventions," the letter said. Even if U.S. forces had been fired on from the Palestine Hotel, "the evidence suggests that the response of U.S. forces was disproportionate and therefore violated international humanitarian law," it said. Severine Cazes, head of the Middle East desk at Paris-based media watchdog Reporters without Borders, said: "It's hard to believe this was just a mistake. We want proof this was not a deliberate attack on journalists." I hope it wasn't a deliberate attack.


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