By Wale Azeez
BBC world affairs editor John Simpson, who narrowly avoided death from American “friendly fire” in Iraq, has condemned the US military for its part in the high number of journalists killed during the war. “In this war, the Americans were more than twice as dangerous to the proper exercise of journalism, the freedom of reporters to see for themselves what was happening, as the Iraqis were,” he said at the Reuters Foundation’s “Reporting under Fire” event in Oxford.
He pointed out that seven out of 10 of the journalists killed as a direct result of military action died at the hands of the US forces.
“I don’t think this figure has been brought to public attention in this way before, and as far as I know, there have been no public apologies for the deaths which have taken place. “Any official investigations have yet to be concluded, and their results brought to light,” Simpson said.
He insisted he was not criticising the fact that war was waged in Iraq, or how it was fought. “But I do think it’s incumbent on us to try to find out why the Americans killed so many journalists, if only to persuade the Bush administration and American public opinion that something went very wrong this time, and that in the next war – if there is another one – the US military should be a great deal more careful.”
He also called for investigations into whether or not any of the deaths were caused deliberately. “When journalists are killed by soldiers who panic or fail to exercise proper judgement, this should be rigorously investigated, and those responsible punished. “Not because journalists are so wonderful, or special in any way, but because their activities have a direct bearing on some of our most important liberties and the general health of our society. “A failure to investigate and, where necessary, punish those who kill journalists is a failure to uphold the values which Western governments are pledged to maintain.
“I think journalists the world over have a right to expect that the United States Government will examine these cases and take action where necessary.”