Monday, March 31, 2003

Nine Journalists Missing, Others Beaten By US Troops

Brussels based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) yesterday demanded an "immediate and full inquiry" into reports that two Israelis and a Portuguese television reporter were arrested by US forces in Iraq, beaten up and detained for 48 hours.
By Azer H.Hasret, BT
29/03/2003 10:39

"If true, this maltreatment of journalists is a grave violation of journalists' rights. This incident must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice," said the IF

According to IFJ the journalists, Dan Scemama, of Israel's Channel 1 TV, Boaz Bismuth of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot and Louis de Castro of Radio Television Portugal, were traveling alongside American convoys. As told to relatives and colleagues, the journalists were forced to stop on Tuesday, beside six tanks, because of sandstorms. The Americans advised them not to move because they would not be identified in the dust. Early on Wednesday, soldiers woke them up at gunpoint, took them away and accused them of espionage.

"The reporters were told to lift their shirts and let down their pants to prove they were not carrying bombs and they were later kept in a closed jeep for 36 hours. The Portuguese journalist asked to phone home and was allegedly beaten; his ribs were broken and he is now in hospital. One of the Israeli journalists was also beaten. Yediot Aharonot, concerned about loss of contact with the journalists, asked the Pentagon to help find them. After 48 hours, a helicopter flew the reporters to an American military base in Kuwait, where they were released and given their telephones back," says IFJ statement.

Other press freedom organization - Reporters Without Borders (RSF) speaks about more dangerous situation. According to this organization nine journalists are missing in the "front line" and two others - ITN's Terry Lloyd and Australian cameraman Paul Moran, of Australia's ABC TV, already killed. At least two other journalists have been wounded.

Those missing are a cameraman for the Al-Jazeera TV, French cameraman Fred Nerac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman, Syrian reporter Wael Awad, cameraman Talal Fawzi al-Masri and technician Ali Hassan Safa of Al-Arabiya TV, journalists from the US daily paper Newsday, Moises Saman and Matthew McAllester, Freelance French-American photographer Molly Bingham. All of them were lost in different circumstances.

"We're huntin' journalists down, we're smokin' 'em out. The propaganda campaign remains on track" ... Pentagon Official Billy Joe Bob Goebbels.