New York, August 13, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is disturbed that U.S. forces forcibly detained Hassan Fattah, editor of the English-language daily Iraq Today, on Monday, August 11, after preventing him from attending a press conference.
In an e-mail to CPJ, Fattah described the incident, which occurred at Baghdad’s conference center when he attempted to gain entry to cover the Iraqi Governing Council’s press conference that day. CPJ independently confirmed his account.
Fattah said that he came to the center five minutes after journalists were supposed to arrive and was told by a U.S. Army major that he was not allowed to enter the center.
Fattah proceeded to the line in the center’s hallway anyway and said that several other journalists were lined up behind him. When he arrived at the security check, the same major asked him to step out of the line and told him again that he would not be granted entry to the conference center. Fattah said that other journalists who were behind him in the line were allowed to proceed without trouble.
After heatedly arguing with the major, Fattah said that several soldiers wrestled him to the ground, handcuffed him, and took him away. His press card was confiscated and he was told that he would not be able to return to the center. His card was later retuned.
In an e-mail to Fattah, Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Charles Heatley did not comment on the incident but said that Fattah would be allowed to enter the conference center and cover events.