UNITED STATES, IRAQ: U.S. expels Iraqi reporter; Iraq retaliates in tit-for-tat move

New York, February 18, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned both that the U.S. government expelled an Iraqi journalist, and that Iraqi authorities responded by ordering a U.S. television correspondent to leave the country. On February 13, New York­based Iraqi News Agency correspondent Mohammed Alawi received a letter from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations informing him that he and his family had 15 days to leave the country. Alawi told CPJ that the letter gave no specific reason for the expulsion but stated that his presence was “harmful to the interests of the United States.”

A U.N. official told the Washington Post that U.S. authorities had accused Alawi of “spying for the Iraqi government.” Alawi denied the charges.
On February 14, Alawi told CPJ that the Iraqi Information Ministry planned to retaliate by expelling the Fox News team from Iraq. According to press reports, the entire Fox News team in Iraq was ordered to leave the country later that day. After negotiations between Fox News and Iraqi officials, however, correspondent Greg Palkot was ordered to leave, while three Fox News technicians were allowed to remain. Palkot is currently reporting from Amman, Jordan.

“We are deeply concerned that journalists have become pawns in this escalating conflict,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “With tensions rising, it is imperative that information circulate as freely as possible.”