“In memory of those who report on conflict, but pay the price with their lives”

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

National Union of Journalists | 8 April 2004

Journalists’ organizations worldwide marked the anniversary of the shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad by US forces with a fresh call for the United States to release vital information about what happened in a number of incidents in which journalists and media staff were killed. On April 8th 2003 more than 150 journalists based at the Palestine Hotel came under fire from US forces. Two journalists were killed and three others wounded. In all, seven journalists perished in four separate incidents of so-called “friendly fire” by US troops in Iraq since hostilities began in March 2003. Two journalists, Taras Protsiuk working for Reuters and José Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecinco, were killed in the Palestine Hotel, which was hit the day before Baghdad fell. Besides these attacks, journalists are raising questions about the deaths of Tareq Ayyoub, a journalist killed during a US air-strike on the offices of Al-Jazeera in Baghdad; the deaths of British ITN reporter Terry Lloyd and his colleagues Fred Nérac and Hussein Osman, whose bodies have never been found, in a fire fight between US and Iraqi troops near Basra; and the shooting by US soldiers of Reuters cameramen Mazen Dana in August. But it is the attack on the Palestine Hotel which shocked the media world and came to symbolize international solidarity with journalists in Iraq prompting the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists to call an international day of mourning and protest over media deaths for tomorrow, April 8th. NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said “The killings at the Palestine Hotel was a shameful incident made worse by US misinformation circulated after the event. To this day there has been no satisfactory explanation about why that attack took place. The US authorities have cleared their military of any responsibility over these deaths, but they steadfastly refuse to make the report public” The commemoration on the day included: (i)  a meeting with officials at the US Embassy to deliver a protest letter calling for the U.S. military to provide an honest and open accounting of what occurred and make public their investigations in full (ii)   unveil a plaque at the NUJ headquarters in remembrance of journalists killed in Iraq since last April (iii)    launch a petition for all NUJ members to sign which will be sent to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanding to know the truth about these deaths. More recently the deaths of: Ali Abdel Aziz, an Iraqi cameraman for Al-Arabyia, correspondent Ali al-Khatib, killed by US fire in Baghdad; of Burhan Mohamed Mazhour, a freelance cameraman for the US-based television station ABC, killed in a firefight involving US forces in Falluja; and on the same day of Omar Kamal, an Iraqi translator working for the newsweekly Time, caused further anger among journalists worldwide. Indeed, these deaths brought the toll since the war began a year ago to 38. “The US authorities must answer serious questions about what really happened to all these journalists,” added Dear, “If not, the families, friends and colleagues of the missing men must live with the haunting and tragic consequences of not knowing the truth amidst suspicion of a cover-up”.