SEAPA Jakarta Condemn Violence Against Journalists in the War on Iraq

11 April 2003

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) Jakarta condemns the United States and its Coalition troops for deliberately firing at journalists in Baghdad on April 8, 2003. There are at least nine journalists killed throughout the war, while others were missing, detained or wounded.

The latest blow occurred in the city of Baghdad on April 8, 2003 when the US troops fired their artillery towards the Palestine Hotel, used as a press centre, and offices of the pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that journalists witnessed a US tank crew of taking “their time, waiting for a couple of minutes and adjusting its gun before opening fire” to the building in the quiet neighbourhood.

The ground assault resulted the deaths of Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Spanish cameraman Jose Couso. Protsyuk was currently working for the Reuters office in Warsaw while Couso worked for the Spanish TV station Telecinco. Three other journalists were also wounded in the attack.

Meanwhile on the same day, US warplanes dropped missiles at the office of the Al-Jazeera TV station, killing cameraman Tareq Ayoub. Another station, Abu Dhabi TV, was also heavily damaged as the planes targeted nearby Iraqi government sites.

Previously, at least six other journalists have been killed in combat, along with a translator for BBC. Two journalists were killed also in non-combat related incidents.

The list of casualty was started with the death of ITV News correspondent Terry Lloyd between March 22 and March 23, 2003. Lloyd, along with cameraman Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Othman, came under fire as they were driving towards the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Lloyd is confirmed dead while the other two remain missing.

On the same day, Australian cameraman Paul Moran of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was killed in a suicide bombing at a checkpoint in northeastern Iraq.

On April 2, 2003, Iranian free-lance cameraman Kaveh Golestan was killed as he accidentally detonated a land mine when he excited his car near the town of Kifri. The Iranian still-photographer was working for BBC.

The fist American journalist killed while covering the war was Michael Kelly of the Atlantic Monthly. Kelly, who was also a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed as the convoy he joined was ambushed on April 4, 2003 outside Baghdad.

Christian Liebig of the German weekly magazine Focus and Julio Anguita Parrado of the Spanish daily El Mundo were killed as Iraqi missiles hit the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division they accompanied.

By firing the Palestine Hotel where more than 200 foreign journalists work and reside, and also attacking the Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi offices, the US and its coalitions have committed a war crime that was directed towards the world’s press freedom. The US and its coalitions have intentionally violated Article 79, paragraph 1 of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians. The article states all journalists covering an armed conflict must be regarded as civilians and therefore protected and not be attacked.

As the US troops now take control of Baghdad, it is time for the Bush administration to be held responsible for the attacks on journalists throughout the war. As an organisation that protects and promotes freedom of the press, SEAPA Jakarta deplores all the US-sponsored acts of violence against journalists in Iraq. SEAPA urges the United Nations to play a key role in reconstructing the post-war Iraq and investigate all acts of violence against journalists during the war.

Yours Respectfully,

Lukas Luwarso Solahudin
Country Director Advocacy Coordinator