Media groups demand investigation after US forces kill cameraman in Iraq
Mon Aug 18, 2:08 PM ET

PARIS (AFP) - Media rights groups called for a full and transparent investigation into the fatal shooting of an award-winning cameraman by a US soldier in Iraq, saying the incident has raised disturbing questions over the coalition's stance towards journalists there.

Mazen Dana, 43, a Palestinian cameraman for Reuters television, was shot in the chest Sunday afternoon by member of a US tank crew, as he recorded footage outside a prison near Baghdad.

Dana was the 15th journalist killed covering the conflict in Iraq. His death came just days after a controversial military investigation cleared US forces of improper conduct in the deaths of two journalists in Baghdad in April.

Reuters said Dana was one of the company's most experienced conflict journalists and had been awarded an International Press Freedom Award in 2001 by the Committee to Protect Journalists for his work in Hebron.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Brussels described Dana's death as "more tragic evidence of what appears to be casual disregard of journalists' safety by military commanders."

"Despite the best efforts of journalists to identify themselves and to seek permission from military units to do their work, they are still being fired upon," said IFJ chief Aidan White.

Dana was killed while filming outside the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, where six Iraqi prisoners had been killed and 59 others wounded in a mortar attack on Saturday.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) said there must now be a "full and transparent" inquiry into the incident.

"The IPI is deeply concerned by the killing of Dana because it bears the hallmarks of an engagement policy which invites the allied military to shoot first and ask questions later."

While the US military said its troops mistook Dana's camera for a Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher, soldiers should be able to make proper identification with modern telescopic sites, the IPI commented.

In Paris, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) slammed the US military's report into the deaths of cameramen from Reuters and Spain's Telecinco on April 8 and urged Washington not to set out to exonerate its troops in any investigation this time.

The report "shamelessly exonerates the US army," said RSF secretary general Robert Menard in a letter to US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying an investigation into Dana's death should "shed full light on this tragedy, not whitewash the US army".

In April's incident, 35-year-old Ukrainian Taras Protsyuk and 37-year-old Jose Couso were killed when a US tank opened fire on Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, which was filled with foreign journalists.

The US report said the tank's fire was a "proportionate and justifiably measured response" after its crew observed an enemy team directing Iraqi fire from the top floor of the hotel.

RSF also said it had recorded isolated but "unacceptable" cases of hostility by coalition forces towards journalists in Iraq, which should not go unpunished.

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for "a full investigation into the shooting and a public accounting of the circumstances" into Dana's death.

US officials described his shooting as a "terrible tragedy" and said that the soldier in question is currently under investigation.

Asked if US forces in Iraq were nervous, a US military spokesman replied: "Yes, because there have been lots of attacks on us."

Reuters chief executive Tom Glocer demanded that the US government carry out a "full and comprehensive investigation" into the shooting of Dana.

He said the death was "hard to bear", following the killing of fellow Reuters cameraman Protsyuk in the Palestine Hotel shelling incident.

Fifteen journalists have been killed covering the conflict, while two others died on assignment in Iraq, one after a pulmonary embolism and one in a fall.

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