Iraqi officials may have detained Newsday journalistsCPJ continues to monitor reports of missing members of the media

New York, March 30, 2003Newsday correspondent Matthew McAllester and photographer Moises Saman may have been detained by Iraqi authorities, said editors at the U.S.-based daily. McAllester and Saman were last seen in Baghdad on March 24.

Meanwhile, four other journalists remain missing. Johan Rydeng Spanner, a free-lance photographer with the Danish daily Jyllands Posten, and Molly Bingham, a U.S. free-lance photographer, were last seen in Baghdad nearly a week ago being escorted by Iraqi officials from the Palestine Hotel. And ITV News cameraman Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Othman were last seen in southern Iraq on March 22 when their car came under apparent coalition forces fire.

Other developments:

  • Four journalists, who entered Iraq on March 24, said they were detained by U.S. troops near Baghdad last week and forced to leave the country. The four journalists—Dan Scemama of Israel’s Channel One television, Boaz Bizmuth with the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, and Radio Televisao Portuguesa’s Luis Castro and Victor Silva—had been traveling alongside U.S. troops when they were detained at gunpoint on March 25 by U.S. forces about 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of Baghdad, said Scemama. The troops accused the journalists of spying and detained them for more than 48 hours without food before flying them to Kuwait City by helicopter, added Scemama.

    However, Iran Tiefenbrunn, an editor for Yediot Aharonot, said that the U.S. forces asked the journalists to leave because they did not have accreditation from the Pentagon to travel with the troops and did not possess the proper biochemical gear. Tiefenbrunn denied that the journalists were accused of spying.

    Scemama said that they did have gas masks and they were not questioned about whether they had chemical suits. He also alleged that the U.S. soldiers beat one of the Portuguese journalists, who had argued with the soldiers about telephoning his family.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is investigating these allegations and is seeking comment from the U.S. military.

  • Seven Italian journalists, who were detained by Iraqi authorities on March 28, are now safe in Baghdad, according to Paolo Lepri, the deputy chief of the foreign desk at Corriere Della Sera. Iraqi authorities detained the journalists—Franco Battistini of Corriere della Sera, Ezio Pasero of Il Messaggero, Luciano Gulli of Il Giornale, Leonardo Maisano of Sole 24 Ore, Toni Fontana of Unita, Lorenzo Bianchi of Il Resto del Carlino, and Vittorio dell’Uva of Il Mattino—at a checkpoint inside Basra. The journalists are currently staying in the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, while Iraqi authorities determine whether they will be granted visas to stay in the country, said Italian media sources.
  • Qatar’s Al-Jazeera satellite channel reported that one of its cameramen, who was reported missing on March 28 after his crew came under fire from British troops near Basra, is now safe. Al-Jazeera news editor Ibrahim Helal told CPJ that the crew had been filming the shelling of food warehouses by British forces west of Basra when their unmarked vehicle was hit by British artillery. A producer and two drivers had returned safely to Basra, but the cameraman, Akil Abdul-Amir, briefly took refuge in a nearby area for fear of being captured by Iraqi or British troops.
  • Britain’s ITN reported that Channel 4 News correspondent Gaby Rado died in Suleimaniya, northern Iraq, after falling off the roof of the Abu Sanaa hotel today. In a press release, ITN said there “appears to be no direct connection with any military action.”