New York, September 11, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the overnight detention of two Al-Jazeera journalists by U.S. forces in Iraq.
U.S. troops detained correspondent Atwar Bahgat and her cameraman, Yasser Bahgat (no relation), last night in the Ghazaliya section of the capital, Baghdad. Atwar Bahgat told CPJ that she and her cameraman were filming near the Ghazaliya Bridge, which had been sealed by U.S. troops after an explosion allegedly took place earlier in the day. When a U.S. soldier approached them and ordered them to back away from the bridge, the journalists complied but when they continued filming, soldiers grabbed Yasser Bahgat.
According to Atwar Bahgat, the soldiers put both journalists into a Humvee and took them to a detention center at Baghdad Airport, where U.S. forces asked them how they had learned about the explosion. One interrogator accused the journalists of knowing about the explosion before it happened.
They were released this afternoon after spending the night in detention.
U.S. Central Command spokesmen, as well as spokesmen for Coalition Forces in Iraq, had no details about the incident. However, The Associated Press quoted an unnamed military spokesman yesterday as saying that the journalists had violated unspecified “ground rules.”