Lettera al Congresso dei familiari ddi giornalisti uccisi da soldati USA
Dear Congressional Members,
We are the families of journalists killed or missing in Iraq during the year 2003. We are writing to you jointly from Amman, Ramallah, London, Brussels, Warsaw and the Bekaa Valley (Lebanon), backed by Reporters Without Borders, to express our deep dismay and grief at the silence, lack of information and the untruth emanating from your government about the fate of our loved ones.
Tarek, Mazen, Terry, Fred, Hussein and Taras were journalists. They acquired the experience and wisdom of war reporters by covering the Balkans, Afghanistan, Chechnya and the Israeli-Palestinian confl ict. Just a year ago, they were sent to Iraq to report on the confl ict and upheaval in the region. As seasoned war correspondents, they were well prepared in advance of what they were to expect when they arrived in Iraq. This war was to be their last.
On 22 March 2003, a team from the British TV network ITN led by star reporter Terry Lloyd came under US and Iraqi gunfi re near Basra, in southern Iraq. Terry was most probably killed by US Marines. French cameraman Fred Nérac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman mysteriously vanished.
The British military police started an investigation in June but was never allowed to question the Marines involved. Despite the promises of Secretary of State Colin Powell, the US Army has not cooperated suffi ciently with British investigators and so reduced the chances of fi nding out what really happened including recovering
the bodies of Fred and Hussein.
April 8 was a terrible day for the media in Baghdad. Tarek Ayoub, of the pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera, was killed when US planes bombed his offi ce, even though the Pentagon was well informed prior to the war of the coordinates of the station. Banners posted outside the station were yet another indication of
Al-Jazeera’s commitment to cooperating with US forces. The US Army reported that it had made a serious and regrettable mistake but eye-witnesses called it a deliberate attack. Disgracefully, Tarek’s death has still not been investigated.
A few hours later on the same day, Taras Protsyuk, of Reuters news agency, and José Couso, of the Spanish TV station Telecinco, were killed when a US tank fi red a shell at the Palestine Hotel. The Pentagon at fi rst denied any wrong-doing, claiming that the tanks had responded to “direct fi ring” from the hotel. Then the story changed and offi cials said the troops were trying to neutralize an “enemy hunter/killer team.”
This excuse did not adequately explain the tragic event. A Reporters Without Borders investigation concluded that US troops had not been told the building was a hotel full of 200 journalists and that it was not clearly marked as a «Non Firing Zone» on the maps they were given before they entered the city. How much longer
must we wait before the US Army admits these deaths could have been avoided? When will those responsible be punished?
Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana was killed by US troops in a Baghdad suburb on August 17. He had asked soldiers if he could fi lm the Abu Ghraib prison where the soldiers were stationed as guards. At that moment, a military convoy came by and its troops mistook his camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and shot and killed Dana. An investigation conducted by the US authorities in as little as two weeks concluded that no military rules had been broken. The Pentagon did not bother to send the results of this mockery of an enquiry to Reuters or Dana’s family before making them public.
We are speaking up today to tell you we are not satisfi ed with the vague excuses of an army on the move busy with major operations.
What happened to Tarek, Mazen, Terry, Fred, Hussein and Taras cannot be dismissed as just “regrettable incidents.” A few half-hearted apologies and supposed enquiries that always conclude the Army acted in accordance
with the rules of warfare and in “legitimate self-defense” are not enough. On the contrary, they fi ll us with bitterness and deepen our grief.
Can we not expect a leading democracy claiming to defend freedom around the world to honestly admit its mistakes and take full responsibility for them?
Time has stopped for us and despite your silence we will not allow the loss of our loved ones to be forgotten.
We ask you to give us further information, reopen the prematurely-closed investigations and take all necessary steps to see these tragedies are not repeated.
The families of journalists killed or missing in Iraq
Dima Tahboub-Ayyoub - Jordan
Lidya Litvinchuk - Poland
Chelsey Lloyd - United Kingdom
Samira Kaderi-Othman - Lebanon
Fabienne Nérac - France
Suzan Dana - West Bank
April 8 2004
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