Wednesday, January 25, 2006

War on Journalists Revisited

Here we go again. There's still no word on kidnapped reporter Jill Carroll, however there are reports that arrests have been made. "Carroll is the 31st foreign journalist to be kidnapped in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003." I have much hope that she is well and that this development may help lead to her being freed.

In other related news, there are now reports of yet another journalist killed in Iraq. :^(

Reuters: An Iraqi television cameraman was killed in clashes between Sunni rebels and U.S. forces in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi on Tuesday, witnesses said on Wednesday. More than 70 foreign and Iraqi journalists have been reported killed since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

The real number is believed to be higher and the list does not include the many translators, drivers and other assistants said by media watchdogs to have died since the conflict began....(more)

[Update] More info from Wapo

Marines Said to Mistakenly Kill Iraqi Journalist in Ramadi

Washington Post: ...During the fighting in Ramadi, Zaal Shehan Mahmoud, 30, a cameraman for the Baghdad TV network, was killed by more than 20 bullets to the head, abdomen and legs, according to Mohammed Dulaimi, a doctor at the Ramadi hospital....(more)

To say Iraq is a place hazardous to a journalist's health is an understatement to say the least. Just to see the list of those killed in the last year is disturbing enough, but as I've written about before, the total number killed has already already exceeded the number killed in all of the 22 years of the war in Vietnam.

Whatever is really going on in Iraq, we may never know. It's impossible to get a clear picture of it from our msm. As Robert Fisk writes, ""Hotel journalism" is the only way to describe it. More and more, Western reporters in Baghdad are reporting from their hotels rather than the streets of Iraq's towns and cities." (...) Rarely, if ever, has a war been covered by reporters in so distant and restricted a way. Several Western journalists simply do not leave their rooms while on station in Baghdad...." And CBS News now reports that "more American reporters are leaving Iraq than arriving. In large part, for the U.S. press, "The party's pretty much over."

In my earlier post, I speculated that journalists in Iraq are most likely being monitored by our military, and no sooner did I write that post did this story break that confirms that suspicion beyond any reasonable doubt.

US troops seize award-winning Iraqi journalist

Jan 9, Guardian: American troops in Baghdad yesterday blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children.

Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning. He was released hours later.

Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.

The troops told Dr Fadhil that they were looking for an Iraqi insurgent and seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned

You can hear his very disturbing 1st-hand account of that raid on his home at Democracy Now: Iraqi Journalist Ali Fadhil Describes Arrest by U.S. Forces: “They Used Explosives and Shot Inside My Home”

Something I didn't note in my earlier post was Dr Fadhil's previous reporting had included award winning accounts of the battle in Fallujah. This is something I wish I would have dug deeper into at the time, because I did go into several of the many accounts that it was Guiliana Sgrena's reporting on Fallujah that was the reason Bush reportedly wanted to bomb al Jazeera.

Sgrena, you may recall, was the Italian journalist that was taken hostage shortly after the battle for Fallujah began, and was shot by US troops on her release. It was in Fallujah where we later learned our military used white phosphorus as a weapon that killed hundreds of insurgents and innocents alike indiscriminately. There is little doubt that these horrific images [GRAPHIC] of men women and children, many killed while asleep in their beds, are exactly what Bush didn't ever want anyone to ever see.

I further speculated that many of the journo's deaths that came at the hands of our military may have been intentional, and I'm not the only one who shares this concern. Lila Rajiva makes a similar assertion in "How America Kills Iraqi Journalists for Their Own Good". 13 journalists thus far have been confirmed killed by our military, and many more may have been. Rajiva makes the case that "around 29 journalists -- almost ten a year" may have been killed by our troops. From what little we do know, several of these deaths appear to have not been an accident.

Add to all of this the case made by the group The Committee to Protect Journalists, in their letter to Don Rumsfeld late last year;

"Iraqi journalists routinely jailed by U.S. forces"

In 2005 alone, CPJ has documented seven cases in which reporters, photographers, and cameramen were detained for prolonged periods without charge or the disclosure of any supporting evidence. These detentions have involved journalists working for CBS News, Reuters, The Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse, among others. At least three documented detentions have exceeded 100 days; the others have involved detentions of many weeks. In at least five cases documented by CPJ, the detainees were photojournalists who initially drew the military's attention because of what they had filmed or photographed.

In several cases, U.S. military officials have voiced suspicions that some Iraqi journalists collaborated with Iraqi insurgents and had advance knowledge of attacks on coalition forces. But the military has never provided evidence to substantiate any claims, despite repeated inquiries over many months, and nearly all of the journalists detained on such suspicions have been released without charge.
With commanders admitting that the military is stretched to their breaking point already, and an increasing absense of journalists to report to us what is going on, I truly fear what choices this administration will make in the days, weeks, months to come. Over and over this administration just keeps creating terrorists faster than they can kill them. Unfettered by the media, it can only get worse. Who's to say that Bush/Rumsfeld won't order Fallujah-like assaults, or worse, all across the country?

Please don't get me wrong. I have nothing but the greatest respect for our brave men and women in uniform. We're not talking about a few isolated incidents here. It's just not believable that 3 journalists killed by US troops in 2 different buildings on opposite sides of the Tigris river was an accident or soldiers working on their own accord. Even we at home know the Palestine Hotel and al Jazeera's Baghdad facility are filled with the press. That attack combined with chimpy's threat to bomb al Jazeera and most of all Dr Fadhil's account above and it's all too obvious that this statement... ""We don't target journalists deliberately -- not now, not ever," said Central Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks." is complete bullshit on the face of it.

If Dr Fadhil would have been killed in the raid on his home would that have just been an accident too? Not unlike the neverending reports of torture, when taken as a whole the pattern suggests these are not isolated incidents, and all of the "accidental deaths" of journalists deserve to be questioned. Most of all, we must begin to ask. Does this administration consider a journalist, especially a foreign journalist, with an unfavorable story to be a legitimate military target? Is that in any way acceptable?

We deserve to know the truth about what is going on in our name, with our tax dollars, in Iraq. Our troops deserve to have eyes and ears that can report back to us what they cannot.


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