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April 5, 2001updated 17 May 2007 11:30am

Death of APTN journalist sparks call for inquiry

By Press Gazette

The International Federation of Journalists has called for an inquiry into the death of Kerem Lawton in Kosovo.

The APTN producer was killed when mortar shells were fired at a crowd of people he was interviewing. "We need a full statement of exactly what happened and who is responsible," said IFJ general secretary Aidan White. "We must know why a clearly marked press car was singled out."

As questions remain about who fired the shells that killed Lawton and two others, there is concern about the length of time it took for him to be taken to hospital.

"K-For refused to take him in one of their vehicles and a journey that should have taken 25 minutes ended up taking two hours," said Vaughan Smith, director of TV company Frontline.

The death of Lawton, 30, has revived safety concerns because he was not in an armoured car and not wearing a flak jacket. Journalists from other news organisations were also driving soft-topped cars as the area was not regarded as particularly dangerous.

Lawton’s death, the third among APTN staff in two years, will revive concerns about the pressure on news agency staff to take risks to get stories.

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One journalist, who asked not to be named, said others had refused to go into the area where refugees were fleeing

Nigel Baker, APTN’s director of content, said Lawton was in an area where there had previously been no trouble.

"We will be looking at the full circumstances and certainly see if there are any lessons that can be learned for the future," he said. "There is pressure on people working in war zones. They are there doing a very difficult job, but there wasn’t any pressure on him to go into the area."

By Julie Tomlin

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