Reporters Without Borders “extremely disappointed” at US troops being cleared of all blame for attack on Palestine Hotel that killed two journalists

first_img Reporters Without Borders said today it was “extremely disappointed” that the final US report on the April 2003 firing by American troops on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel had concluded that “no fault or negligence” could be attributed to the US army for an action that killed two journalists.It criticised the investigation report, obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, for focusing entirely on the behaviour of the Alpha 4-64 Armor Company, whose tank fired on the hotel, and for not dealing with why the higher military command did not pass on to the unit information it had about the occupants of the hotel.The worldwide press freedom organisation made its own investigation and in January this year blamed the incident on the failure of senior officers to tell the troops the hotel contained journalists.US soldiers fired on the hotel on 8 April 2003, killing two cameramen – José Couso (of the Spanish TV station Telecinco) and Taras Protsyuk (a Ukrainian working for Reuters news agency) – and wounding three other journalists. The report, consisting of a initial investigation dated 11 April 2003 and a revised version the following month, was provided by the Coalition Forces Land Component Command more than a year after a legal request for it.Reporters Without Borders showed in its investigation that the attack could have been avoided if the A 4-64 troops (attached to the 4th battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade), installed at one end of the Al-Jumhuriya Bridge, had been told by the Pentagon and the army command that the hotel, on the opposite side of the Tigris river, was full of journalists.It said the shelling of the hotel was “not a deliberate attack” on journalists and the media but that the US military should investigate further to establish where the break in communications occurred.The US army’s second (more detailed) report in May supplied proof of this breakdown with its account of what happened among the A 4-64 troops.It revealed that the army knew since 11 April that the soldiers had tried to neutralise one or two people with binoculars who they had taken for enemy “forward observers” and that the order to fire was given with “no knowledge that the building was a hotel or that the journalists had been moved into it.” This was confirmed again by the sworn testimony of a soldieron 26 May that “at no time was there any discussion” of no-fire areas or protected sites on the other side of the river. But the lieutenant-general in charge of the May investigation (whose name has been censored in the text along with those of two other officers) made no separate enquiry into this aspect, which was not mentioned at all in the final conclusions.After the report’s endorsement by a military lawyer on 5 June that year, the US army said the shelling was aimed at “what was believed to be an enemy firing platform and observation point” and that the soldiers “understood the rules of engagement specifically as it applied to the right to self-defense.” It was “clearly a proportionate and justifiable measured response” and there was “no violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and no disciplinary or administrative action required.”The lieutenant-general said “the unit showed magnificent courage and restraint as they executed combat operations” at the bridge and he expressed his “deepest sympathy for the families of those who were killed.” However, “responsibility for the incident rests with an enemy that chose to fight in a city, needlessly exposing the civilian population, including journalists, to the hazards of war.” The report “highly recommend(ed) that non-embedded media personnel routinely inform the proper military and civilian authorities of their locations during combat operations.”This conclusion is very hard to swallow when many of the journalists in the hotel had done exactly that during the fighting. Reporters Without Borders found that several had informed their employers, some of them in the United States, of the hotel’s GPS location. The pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera had consistently told the Pentagon of the composition and location of its crews, but its Baghdad offices were nonetheless bombed, killing a reporter.Reporters Without Borders is waiting for the results of US army investigations into the deaths of four journalists killed in three separate incidents:- Al-Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayyoub, killed when US warplanes bombed the station’s offices on 8 April 2003.- Ali Al-Khatib (reporter) and Ali Abdel Aziz (cameraman) of the pan-Arab TV stations Al-Arabiya, shot dead by US troops at a checkpoint on 18 March 2003 as they were covering a rocket attack on a Baghdad hotel. The US army admitted it was to blame on 29 March but said it was an accident.- Mazen Dana, a Reuters news agency cameraman, shot dead by US troops in front of the Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad, on 17 August 200Iraq remains the world’s most dangerous country for the media and at least 46 journalists and media assistants have been killed there while covering the invasion and the fighting since then. Eleven of them were probably killed by the US army which, after the Iraqi guerrilla fighters, is the biggest danger for journalists.Of the journalists and media assistants killed, 46% were killed by Iraqi guerrillas and 24% by US troops. Nine percent were killed by the old Iraqi army during the 2003 invasion and 21% died for unknown reasons.Two cameramen are still missing. They are Frenchman Fred Nérac, of the British TV station ITN, who vanished on 22 March 2003, and Iraqi Isam Hadi Muhsin Al-Shumary, who disappeared on 15 August 2004. News December 28, 2020 Find out more News IraqMiddle East – North Africa Reporters Without Borders is “extremely disappointed” by the US army’s investigation of the shelling of Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel which killed journalists José Couso and Taras Protsyuk. The detailed enquiry does not explain at all why the troops on the ground were not told that a large number of foreign journalists were staying at the hotel on the east bank of the Tigris river. December 16, 2020 Find out more IraqMiddle East – North Africa RSF’s 2020 Round-up: 50 journalists killed, two-thirds in countries “at peace” Follow the news on Iraq Receive email alerts News to go further Iraq : Wave of arrests of journalists covering protests in Iraqi Kurdistan November 16, 2004 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Reporters Without Borders “extremely disappointed” at US troops being cleared of all blame for attack on Palestine Hotel that killed two journalists RSF_en News Help by sharing this information Three jailed reporters charged with “undermining national security” Organisation February 15, 2021 Find out morelast_img

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