CPJ condemns journalists’ deaths in Iraq Group calls for an investigation

New York, April 8, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent a letter today to U.S. secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld expressing concern about U.S. military strikes against known media locations in Baghdad this morning that left three journalists dead and several wounded. CPJ called for an “immediate and thorough investigation into these incidents” and for the findings to be made public.

This morning, Baghdad time, U.S. air strikes severely damaged the Baghdad office of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite network, killing journalist Taraq Ayyoub. Al-Jazeera cameraman Zouhair al-Iraqi was injured in the blast, according to the station. Moments later, another explosion damaged the nearby office of Abu Dhabi TV.

“While we recognize that both stations, which are located near the Presidential Palace and the Information Ministry, were operating in an area where combat was occurring,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon, “the missile strike on the Al-Jazeera facility raises questions about whether the building was deliberately targeted.”

A U.S. tank also opened fired this morning on the Palestine Hotel—the main base for dozens of international journalists covering the conflict from Baghdad—killing two journalists and wounding at least three others. Reuters reported that its cameraman Taras Protsyuk died in the blast, while reporter Samia Nakhoul and photographer Faleh Kheiber were injured. Cameraman José Couso of Spain’s Telecinco television was also killed in the attack. U.S. officials have stated that they were responding to sniper fire from the roof of the hotel. Eyewitnesses said they heard no gunfire coming from the hotel.

While U.S. officials have expressed regret for the loss of life in these attacks and stated that they do not target journalists, Simon reminded Secretary Rumsfeld that “journalists are civilians and protected under international humanitarian law and cannot be deliberately targeted.”