The betrayal of Iraq ’s media professionals
A new landmark in the Iraq catastrophe, and a new landmark in history altogether: at least 300 media professionals have died in Iraq.
Suhad Al-Khalidi, reporter for Iraqi Media Network, was killed by US troops on 4 February 2007 when their patrol passed by her car in Hilla. Three guards working for the government funded al-Iraqiya TV were killed by fire of foreign security guards in central Baghdad on 7 February 2007. Foreign security guards accompanying a delegation shot and killed the three guards. Rasoul Abdul Hussein, a reporter, was killed together with his wife in Diwaniya on 21 February 2007. Hamid Mohammed Salih, a program director for the Dijlah radio station, was assassinated in the Jami’a district 0n 19 March 2007. Mohammed Jassim Yousif, a reporter for the Iraqi Media Network, was assassinated west of Baghdad on 31 March. An unknown correspondent for the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram was killed in a car bomb explosion targeting the Shi’ite Khillani mosque in a crowded area of central Baghdad on 19 June 2007. Abdul Khaliq al-Habir al-Anbaki, a caricaturist in al-Mutamar newspaper, was killed along with his 11-member-family in the car bombing attack that took place on 27 July 2007 in Karrada, central Baghdad.
The two things these murders have in common is that these persons were Iraqi media professionals and that their assassination, which occurred in 2007, went unreported by CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists), and RSF (Reporters Without Borders). These casualties are listed on the BRussells Tribunal website (http://www.brusselstribunal.org/JournalistKilled.htm) and their cases were taken from different press reports.
What’s happening with the Western journalist ethics? What’s happening with the solidarity between Western media professionals and their Iraqi colleagues? The above mentioned killings, did they not take place? Were they not mentioned in one or another press report? Why are they not listed then?
Different journalists organisations defend the interests of their colleagues and/or compile lists of killed media professionals in occupied Iraq: CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists), RSF (Reporters Without Borders), INSI (International News Safety Institute) – closely linked with the IFJ (International Federation of Journalists), ICasualties (Iraq Coalition Casualty Count), (IFEX) International Freedom of Expression Exchange – who collect most of their data from RSF-, and others, like UNESCO.
CPJ considers a journalist to be killed on duty if the person died as a result of a hostile action—such as reprisal for his or her work, or crossfire while carrying out a dangerous assignment. CPJ does not include journalists killed in accidents, such as car or plane crashes, unless the crash was caused by aggressive human action (for example, if a plane were shot down or a car crashed trying to avoid gunfire). Nor does CPJ include journalists who died of health ailments. They list only 26 Media professionals killed in 2007, of which 5 in a list of pending investigations into suspicious deaths, called Killed: Motive Unconfirmed.
The Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial (Newseum) staffers claim to compile their list from information circulated by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute, the International Freedom of Expression Clearing House, Reporters Sans Frontières, the International Federation of Journalists, the Inter American Press Association, news stories and other sources. A whole lot of sources, it seems. They list only 28 journalists killed in Iraq in 2007.
Reporters without Borders lists only 50 killed media professionals in 2007. INSI lists 57 casualties in 2007.
The BRussells Tribunal lists 300 deceased media professionals since the illegal invasion until now, of which 271 are Iraqi Nationals. 6 died of “non-violent” causes. All the others are violent deaths. The number for 2007 stands at 72 killed media professionals, of which 71 are Iraqis. The latest casualty being an Iraqi newspaper correspondent, Abdul-Khaliq Nasser, who was fatally wounded in a rocket attack in Mosul on 28th September 2007.
All the mainstream media worldwide take over the ridiculous figures of CPJ and RSF. Here’s what one usually reads in an article about yet another killing of a media professional:
“According to Reporters Without Borders at least X journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003; two are missing and 13 are currently being held hostage. Their number may be higher than the CPJ figure quoted above because it includes media assistants as well as journalists.”
“The CPJ count is the most widely cited number in reporting on journalist deaths in Iraq . But the CPJ tally of 61 is misunderstood and incomplete because it excludes dozens of journalists and news organization employees killed or who otherwise died on assignment in Iraq.”, Eason Jordan writes in the IHT on 08 February 2006.
The US Administration, the Brookings Institution, you name it, they all use CPJ, RSF and ICasualties figures of killed media professionals. One would expect that lists of murdered colleagues are compiled with the greatest care, given the importance official bodies attach to these figures. That is not the case. The negligence with which the lists are compiled is revolting. It is another sign of either self-censorship or deliberate downplaying of casualties, something we’re seeing happening with the surveys of civilian casualties in Iraq . The media don’t use the scientific studies of the Lancet or the credible polls of ORB, the media use the ridiculous figure of Iraq Bodycount, an organisation that lists only what the Western media reports. A clear case of inbreeding. A clear case of imitating “His Master’s Voice”.
Please have a look at some figures. These include Journalists, Media workers and unconfirmed cases.
Al-Iraqiya director general Habib al-Sadr told AFP last month that at least 75 members of his staff have been killed since he took over the channel in 2005 and another 68 wounded. The BRussells Tribunal list of killed media professionals has less than 1/3rd of this number in its database. So by extrapolation we could conclude that we have listed only about 1/3rd of the real casualties of media professionals in the Iraq war. Why is this claim not being further investigated? Habib al-Sadr’s words are meant for sceptic people who think that the BRussells Tribunal figures have been artificially inflated.
Do I sound too harsh for the Western media organisations? I don’t think so. I’ve written to CPJ and received a meaningless answer. I wrote to RSF and received no answer. I’ve written to many media outlets and received no reaction. I’ve also sent them a previous article: “At least 78 media professionals killed in Iraq in 2006.”, dated 21 February 2007. No reactions, no comment.
By the way: after further research, I discovered that at least 90 media professionals have been killed in 2006, not 78. Here is the number of killed media professionals by year, according to different press accounts.
Of which 6 have died of “non-violent” causes.
Let’s have a closer look at the figures for 2007. Let’s have a look – as an example – at the media professionals that CPJ doesn’t include in its list. Conclude for yourself if these deaths would have to be included or not. And think about why they have not been included. There is a link to the media that have reported these killings.
These 45 Iraqi media professionals deserve to be remembered, especially by organisations that claim to defend their interests. Looking at these figures is a good reason for journalists not to use CPJ’s tallies anymore in an article about the killing of a journalist. It’s not a decent thing to list only 36 % of the reported casualties and leave out 64%. There can be no valid reason to underreport so grossly.
But there’s more. The most striking absent journalist in CPJ’s database is Yasser Salihee (or Yassir Al-Salihi). Knight-Ridder reporter, Yasser Salihee, 30, was killed on June 24, 2005 while driving his car. He came into a Baghdad road intersection where every exit had been blocked by U.S. Humvees. He died of a single shot to the head. A report by Salon.com, which interviews the supposed sniper –but does not identify him– paints the incident as an unpremiditated, accidental killing. But details of the scene and the events revealed later have the hallmarks of a staged assassination. At the time Salihee entered the intersection, all other exits were blocked. And as he approached, another car already in place began ‘turning’ in front of Salihee to bring him to a halt in the killing zone and ensure a perfect shot. The windshield of his car appears to be pierced by only one bullet -the fatal one. Four fingers of his right hand were missing -possibly in vain self-defense. At the time he was killed, he was investigating the activities of the death squads in Iraq . There are reasonable doubt about this incident being a murder or an accident. Yet CPJ doesn’t even list Yasser Salihee in their special unconfirmed cases for 2005. He just disappeared from CPJ’s database. That is very remarkable and very suspicious. And certainly not impartial.
I would like to plead for a serious count of killed media professionals who died in this bloody war. Or is the life of an Iraqi media worker less worth than that of his colleagues in the West, where killed journalist are meticulously counted?
I would also like to plead for the creation of an independent journalists organisation that can really defend the interests of journalists in Iraq, and is not linked in one way or another to the mainstream media that are owned by the very same people who have advocated for this war to take place, who keep on defending the occupation and remain silent about the catastrophic situation that is being rightfully defined by ever more people as a genocide.
Dirk Adriaensens is member BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee
Dirk Adriaensens is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Dirk Adriaensens
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© Copyright Dirk Adriaensens, BRussells Tribunal, 2007
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