News / 08.04.2010

UJF Calls on Obama to investigate killings

President Barack OBAMA

WHITE HOUSE

Washington D.C.

USA

We write on behalf of the journalists in Finland represented by the Union of Journalists in Finland, to express our concerns over the failure by the United States government to carry out proper and independent investigations into deaths of journalists and media staff in Iraq in which your soldiers were involved.

Every year the IFJ has organised with its affiliates worldwide a remembrance day on April 8th to commemorate the attack by US forces on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, an event that has come to symbolise impunity over attacks on journalists and media staff in Iraq and around the world.

This year, we are joining the affiliates of the International Federation of Journalists in 150 countries the world over demanding that your government takes responsibility for the deaths of journalists and media staff in Iraq. This time, we are encouraged by your vision and plans concerning Iraq which have given hope to millions across the world.

On April 8th 2003, the attack on the Palestine Hotel led to the deaths of two journalists, José Couso of Telecinco in Spain, and Taras Protsiuk, a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters. Also on the same day, US forces attacked the offices of Al-Jazeera in Baghdad, killing the reporter Tareq Ayyoub.

Neither of these attacks has been independently investigated nor have the deaths been properly explained to the satisfaction of the victims’ families, their friends and their colleagues.

Over the years, there have indeed been reports of the killings published by US authorities, but most failed to thoroughly examine the evidence available and instead put its main thrust on exonerating US personnel at all levels of command.

With other press freedom groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, we examined the Pentagon’s November 2004 report on the attack on the Palestine Hotel only to conclude that it was flawed and unconvincing.

Since then more evidence has emerged of US army involvement in these killings. In 2007 the US News network Democracy NOW! published evidence from a US veteran who, contrary to US army claims, says the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad was a military target.. And recently video evidence has shown a US military helicopter in July 2007 opening fire on and killing innocent civilians, among them Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh in Baghdad.

Altogether we have catalogued 19 cases, listed below, involving journalists and media staff who have died since March 2003 at the hands of US soldiers. In all of these cases, families and friends of the killed journalists continue to wait for credible investigations and honest reports about how and why their loved ones died. They just cannot understand why independent investigations of these incidents were not carried out. But it is not just foreign correspondents who have died, it is Iraqi journalists who have been most prominent among the victims of this war.

We hope that your administration will review these cases through a convincing process of investigation, involving an exhaustive examination of the relevant evidence, and full disclosure of testimony.

We respectfully request that you honour your commitment to democracy, human rights and justice by ordering a prompt and convincing response to the questions raised over these deaths.

Yours Sincerely,

Arto Nieminen Juha Rekola

President Ombudsman

List of journalists and media workers killed by US armed forces or US security agencies under the jurisdiction of the US army in Iraq

2003: March – December, seven cases

Telecinco: Jose Cuoso (Palestine Hotel, 8 April)

Reuters: Taras Protsyuk (Palestine Hotel, 8 April)

Aljazeera: Tareq Ayoub (Baghdad, 8 April)

ITN: Terry Lloyd, Fred Nerac, Hussein Osman (Basra, 12 March)

Reuters: Mazen Dana (Baghdad, 17 August)

2004: Six cases

Al-Arabiya: Ali-Abdel Azzis (Baghdad, 18 March)

Ali Al Khatib (Baghdad, 19 March)

freelancer Mazen Al-Tomeizi (Baghdad, 12 September)

Al-Iraqia: Assad Khadem, Hussein Saleh (road to Samara, 19 April)

Reuters: Dhia Najim (Ramadi, 1 November)

2005: One case

Al-Ittihad Al-Isalmi: Dler Ali Karam (road to Darbandikhan, 12 February).

2007: Five cases

Al-Iraqia: Nabras Mohamed Hadi (near the TV HQ, 7 February)

Ashar Abdullah al-Maliki (near the TV HQ, 7 February)

Sabah Salman (near the TV HQ, 7 February)

Reuters: Namir Noor-Eldeen (Eastern Baghdad, 12 July)

Sameed Chmagh (Eastern Baghdad, 12 July)


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