Iraq 'more deadly' for journalists than troops

The war in Iraq was proportionately more deadly for journalists than for the coalition forces, according to press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.

It has repeated its demand to US and British forces to explain the deaths of journalists under US fire on 8 April which, it believes, could constitute “war crimes”.

In less than a month, nine journalists and one media assistant were killed, at least 10 journalists were wounded and two are still missing.

Four others died in accidents or from natural causes, said RWB in a review of the conflict timed to coincide with World Press Freedom Day last Saturday.

The report said the high casualty rate was testament to the sophistication of the weaponry used as well as the proximity of journalists to the combatants through a combination of “embedding” them in army units and their presence on all the fronts, including Iraqi Kurdistan.

RWB was among a number of organisations to protest after two incidents in Baghdad on 8 April.

In one, US planes bombed the offices of the Arab television station Al-Jazeera, killing reporter Tareq Ayoub and wounding another. Ayoub was hit on the roof of the building on which was draped a banner saying “TV”.

The same day, a US tank fired a shell without warning at the Palestine Hotel, where many foreign journalists were staying. Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protsyuk, of Reuters news agency, was killed in his room, and Spanish cameraman Josè Couso, of Spanish television station Telecinco, died of his wounds soon afterwards.

RWB said that despite repeated requests, neither the Pentagon nor the British Ministry of Defence has given satisfactory explanations of these incidents, which it claimed “may constitute war crimes”.

By Jon Slattery

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