Missing journalist’s wife demands more informationAl-Jazeera suspends Baghdad coverage; Iraqis fail to renew 50 journalists’ credentials

New York, April 3, 2003—During a NATO press conference today in Brussels, Belgium, Fabienne Nerac urged U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell to provide more information on her missing husband, ITV cameraman Fred Nerac.

“I give you my personal promise we will do everything we can to find out what happened,” Powell told her, according to the BBC.

Nerac and translator Hussein Othman have been missing since March 22, when their marked press vehicle reportedly came under fire from coalition and Iraqi forces outside the southern Iraqi city of Basra. ITV correspondent Terry Lloyd was killed in the incident.

Both Fabienne Nerac and officials at the British television network ITN, which produces ITV News, have said they believe that U.S. authorities possess additional information about the incident.

Today in Doha, Qatar, CPJ board member Michael Massing queried officials at the U.S. Central Command about U.S. efforts to investigate the matter and locate the missing journalists.

“We have heard the reports,” said Centcom spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks. “But in this case what I would tell you in all seriousness is that the reports we have is that they were in an area that was involved in combat. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding the lack of accountability for them at this point in time, or what their circumstances are. We take the concern seriously, and we’re looking into it.”

In other developments:

  • The Qatar-based satellite station Al-Jazeera announced yesterday that it will “temporarily freeze all coverage” from its Iraq-accredited correspondents to protest official Iraqi restrictions against the outlet’s journalists. The station said that Iraq’s Information Ministry pulled the credentials of Baghdad correspondent Diar al-Omary and ordered reporter Tayseer Alouni expelled from the country. According to Al-Jazeera, no reason was given for the move. The station said that their “policy will remain in effect until the Iraqi government rescinds its decision.”
  • Sources in Baghdad told CPJ that Iraqi authorities have failed to renew the credentials of some 50 Baghdad-based correspondents. It is unclear whether they will be allowed to stay in the country or not. Meanwhile, at least nine foreign journalists, who were detained in southern Iraq by Iraqi officials, remain confined to their hotel in Baghdad. It is still unclear whether they will be expelled or allowed to resume work.