Tuesday 6 April 2010

IFJ calls on President Obama to open inquiry into killings of journalists in Iraq after gunship video

The International Federation of Journalists today called on President Barack Obama to open a fresh investigation into the actions of the United States army following the release of a video film by WikiLeaks of a helicopter gunship attack on civilians including two Reuters media staff in 2007.
 “This is evidence of calculated, cold-blooded and horrifying violence,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “The United States cannot ignore this atrocity and the killings of unarmed civilians. We insist on a completely new review of these and all the killings of journalists and media staff in the Iraq conflict.”
Two Reuters staff--photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh – were among the civilians killed.
“Altogether there have been 19 unexplained killings of media staff at the hands of US soldiers,” said Boumelha. “The administration of Barack Obama cannot duck its responsibility to set aside the white-wash of self-exonerating reporting by the US army. Justice requires that there is no impunity and that the US military is held to account for its actions in Iraq.”
The following is the text of an email from Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger:
The video of our colleagues, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, being killed in Iraq in 2007 was difficult and disturbing to watch but also important to watch.
If somehow you’ve missed it, our story is here and the video is here.
There is no better evidence of the dangers each and every journalist in a war zone faces at any time.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the men and women of Reuters news who put themselves on the front line to tell the story; we mourn and remember each of our colleagues who has died – our books of remembrance that we keep in our main offices are grim reminders of the sacrifices too many have made over the many decades and many conflicts.
It is impossible to watch and listen to the video dispassionately. I struggle with my emotions the way I’m sure many of you struggle as well.
I believe that we as an organization and I as an individual must fight for journalists’ safety. I will continue to campaign for better training for the military  – to help as much as possible to teach the difference in form between a camera and an rpg or between a tripod and a weapon. I will continue to press for thorough and objective investigations. I will continue to insist that governments the world over recognize the rights of journalists to do their jobs. I will continue to ensure that our rules and operating procedures are the safest in the industry.
In this particular case, Tom Glocer and I want to meet with the Pentagon to press the need to learn lessons from this tragedy.
These stories are not easy for us to report or to be involved in. They test our commitment to viewing events and actions objectively.
What matters in the end is not how we as colleagues and friends feel; what matters is the wider public debate that our stories and this video provoke.

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