Iraq: Reporters sans frontiers ha chiesto al comando USA di spiegare perchè il cameramen della CBS news sia ancora in carcere dopo un mese
US army asked to explain why it is still holding CBS News cameraman after one month
Concern about arrests of other journalists
Reporters Without Borders wrote to General John Abizaid, head of US Central Command today calling for the release of Iraqi cameraman Abdel Amir Hussein in the absence of evidence against him. Hussein works for CBS News in Mosul. The letter also voiced alarm about all the other journalists currently detained in Iraq.
"Hussein has now been held for a month without the US army producing any concrete proof of its allegations," the press freedom organization said in its letter said, noting that it had already voiced concern about his detention on 9 April.
"We would like to express our concern to you again today, and to reiterate our request for a more detailed explanation," the letter continued. "The result of an explosives test in a country at war does not seem to us to be either sufficient or substantial as justification for his detention. In the name of international law, we call on you yet again to release this journalist if you are unable to produce tangible evidence against him."
Noting that, according to recent information from US military sources, a total of nine Iraqi journalists "suspected of helping insurgent groups" are currently held in US and Iraqi detention centres without being charged, the letter called on the US army and the Iraqi authorities to display more transparency and discernment in the arrests of journalists.
"The competent authorities must also provide the identity of each detained journalist as soon as possible together with the reason for their detention," Reporters Without Borders said.
"As the number of arrests rises, so does our concern about the scale of the problem," the letter added. "At a time when the United States is committed to the development of democracy in Iraq, the US army should set an example by respecting press freedom. Journalists are news professionals. They are not party to the conflict and should not be treated as belligerents or as potential terrorists."
Reporters Without Borders already voiced alarm on 26 April about the increase in arrests of local journalists, often without any evidence or for unknown reasons.
Hussein was injured in the hip in the course of an exchange of shots between an Iraqi insurgent and soldiers of the 1st Brigade of the US 25th Infantry Division on 5 April near Mosul. An initial US army statement said the soldiers fired at "an insurgent" who was "waving an AK-47 (assault rifle) and inciting a crowd of civilians." The statement continued : "An individual that appeared to have a weapon who was standing near the insurgent was shot and injured. This individual turned out to be a reporter who was pointing a video camera. Regretfully, the reporter was injured during the complex and volatile situation."
The statement adding that the incident was being investigated. The journalist, namely Hussein, was taken to a US military hospital for treatment to his injuries, which the US army described as minor.
A subsequent army statement on 8 April said the US forces were holding Hussein and conducting an investigation into his previous activities and possible support for the insurgency. It said there were reasons for thinking he might pose "a serious threat to the coalition forces" and that he would be treated like any other security detainee. Army spokesman Capt. Mark Walter said Hussein had sustained minor injuries and was suspected of involvement in the shooting, along with a number of other people. He also said Hussein was detained after the incident in part because of the statements of persons who witnessed the clashes.
CBS issued a statement of support for Hussein the same day, saying he had been working for the news organization for the past three months and been had recommended by the CBS fixer in Tikrit, who had enjoyed a relationship of trust with CBS for two years.
According to recent information, Hussein has been held in Abu Ghraib prison since 22 April. A US army statement said an explosives test on him yielded a positive result and that the Multi-National Force in Iraq was pursuing investigations into his possible collaboration with terrorists and into claims that he had prior knowledge of terrorist attacks.
Arrests of other journalists
US army spokesman Col. Steve Bylan told Agence France-Presse (AFP) yesterday that nine journalists employed by a total of seven western news media are currently detained, and that some of them have been held "for several months."
Reporters Without Borders is aware of the following cases :
The Iraqi police arrested Associated Press Television News (APTN) cameraman Sami Shouker Naji on the morning of 30 March, as he was working on his own behalf in Bakuba (north of Baghdad). An Iraqi army general said he is being held at Abu Ghraib prison for supposedly collaborating with "the insurgents." Neither APTN nor his family have had any word of him since his arrest. An APTN spokesman said the agency was doing its best to help him.
Two journalists who work for AFP are also reportedly among those being held. AFP said the army has confirmed the arrest of only one of them, Ammar Daham Naef Khalaf, who was detained on 11 April by US soldiers at his home in Ramadi (west of Baghdad). The army said he was transferred on 26 April to Abu Ghraib prison, where he will not be able to receive visits for 60 days.
AFP said the other journalist, photographer Fares Nawaf al-Issaywi, was arrested by the Iraqi army on 1 May while working in Fallujah (50 km west of Baghdad) and was then handed over to the US army, which has not yet confirmed his detention. He is due to receive China's international award for the photo of the year on 28 May. Hussein Al Shimari, a reporter with the satellite TV station Al-Diyar, was detained by the Iraqi military on 9 April in Dyala province, northeast of Baghdad, on suspicion of collaborating with the insurgents. His editor said he was tortured. He has not been allowed to contact his family, which has not received any word of him since his arrest.
The mayor of the southern town of Kawit ordered the arrest of Ayad Al-Tamimi, the editor of the daily newspaper Sada Wasit, and journalist Ahmed Mutare Abass on 12 April. Ibrahim Al-Srage, who heads the Association for the Defence of Iraqi Journalists, said the mayor requested an arrest warrant from the town's public prosecutor and then, in an abuse of his authority, sentenced Al-Tamimi to two months in prison and Abass to four months in prison for libel. The newspaper had carried reports about violent crime and the shortcomings of the municipal authorities. Both are still in prison.
Two journalists and a media assistant released
The Iraqi police on 3 May released a sound engineer with Al-Sharkia TV who had been held for three months without charge. He was reportedly beaten while in detention.
Reuters Television cameraman Nabil Hussein and his father were released on 4 May, after being held for 11 days without charge. The cameraman told Reuters they were held in three small rooms and were given little food and water. "We were insulted and humiliated by the Iraqi police all this time," he said. Reuters global managing editor David Schlesinger welcomed their release while calling for an investigation. "I think it is vital for the safety of all journalists working in Iraq that a thorough enquiry should be carried out into the circumstances of his detention," he said.
The police arrested Nabil Hussein on 24 April in of Mosul. His father was arrested when he tried to visit his son a few hours later. Relatives told Reuters about 20 police raided the home in the morning, beating Hussein, another journalist and their driver, before taking them to police headquarters in Mosul. The driver, Ismail Ibrahim, said the police "put sacks on our heads and beat us."
Freelance cameraman Hassan Walid Abdul Wahab, 23, who works regularly for the German TV station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), was also released on 4 May along with his two brothers and his father. There were arrested on 20 April by several policemen who burst into their home. ZDF had immediately hired a lawyer to act on their behalf. A relative said that, as a pretext for holding him, the police suggested Wahab might have links with the abductors of three Romanian journalists and their guide.