Editor lambastes U.S. treatment of journalists in Iraq

BAGHDAD – A top editor for Reuters news service has charged that the treatment of journalists in Iraq by U.S. troops is "spiraling out of control" and preventing full coverage of the war from reaching the public.

In a letter to Sen. John Warner, R-VA, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger charges that the detention and accidental shootings of journalists is severely limiting how reporters can operate. He referred to "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by U.S. forces in Iraq."

At least 66 journalists and media workers, most of them Iraqis, have been killed in the country since March 2003, the UK‘s Guardian reports. U.S. forces have admitted killing three Reuters journalists, most recently soundman Waleed Khaled, who was shot by U.S. soldiers on Aug. 28 while on assignment in Baghdad. But the military said the soldiers were justified in opening fire. Reuters believes a fourth journalist working for the agency, who died in Ramadi last year, was killed by a U.S. sniper.

"By limiting the ability of the media to fully and independently cover the events in Iraq, the U.S. forces are unduly preventing U.S. citizens from receiving information and undermining the very freedoms the U.S. says it is seeking to foster,” Schlesinger wrote.

He also noted that the U.S. military had failed to implement recommendations resulting from its own inquiry into the death of award-winning Palestinian cameraman Mazen Dana, who was shot dead while filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in August 2003.

Reuters and other international news organizations are concerned by the "sizeable and rapidly increasing number of journalists detained by U.S. forces," he added. Some detentions were prompted by journalists’ decisions to take photographs and video of insurgents, which U.S. soldiers interpreted as showing sympathy with the insurgency.

Reuters has also demanded the release of a freelance Iraqi cameraman after a secret tribunal ordered that he be detained indefinitely. Samir Mohammed Noor was arrested by Iraqi troops at his home four months ago. The secret hearing held last week found him to be "an imperative threat to the coalition forces and the security of Iraq." At the very least, the news agency said, he should have a chance to defend himself in open court.

CBS has raised similar concerns over the April arrest of a cameraman, Abdul Amir Younes, after he was shot by U.S. troops. CBS expressed concern that he had no legal representation at the hearing and no chance to see the evidence against him.