New York, January 27, 2003—A television producer working for the U.S. cable news network CNN and his driver were killed in an ambush today on the outskirts of Baghdad, CNN has reported.
The network said that producer Duraid Isa Mohammed, who also acts as a translator, and driver Yasser Khatab died of multiple gunshot wounds on Tuesday afternoon after the two-car convoy they were traveling in came under fire by unidentified assailants on the outskirts of Baghdad. Cameraman Scott McWhinnie, who was traveling in the second vehicle, was grazed in the head by a bullet, CNN said, but the remaining members of the convoy-two CNN journalists, a security adviser, and the second driver-were unharmed. McWhinnie was treated at a nearby military base.
According to CNN, the vehicles were headed north toward Baghdad when a rust-colored Opel approached from behind. A single gunman with an AK-47, positioned through the sunroof, opened fire on one of the vehicles.
CNN’s vice president for international public relations, Nigel Pritchard, told CPJ that both CNN cars were unmarked and the attackers may not have been aware they were journalists.
By CPJ’s estimate, Iraq remains the most dangerous place in the world to work as a journalist. In 2003, 13 journalists died as a result of hostile acts—the largest such tally anywhere in the world. Six others died from illness or accidents.
For the most part, armed groups in Iraq do not appear to be targeting journalists in any systematic way. However, members of the media have confronted an assortment of hazards in the course of their work, including bomb attacks, shootings, carjackings, and robberies. According to journalists in Iraq, well-organized bandits, who prowl the main roads, pose a serious threat.
Reuters protests U.S. military’s treatment of journalists
In a separate development, Reuters news agency today protested the U.S. military’s “failure to address its concerns about the safety of journalists in Iraq.”
In a letter to the Pentagon, Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger expressed concern about the case of three Reuters employees who were detained on January 2 and held for three days by U.S. troops earlier this month near the Iraqi town of Fallujah. The letter reiterated Reuters’ request for a U.S. military investigation into the incident.
Reuters cameraman Salem Ureibi, Reuters journalist Ahmad Mohammad Hussein al-Badrani, and their driver, Sattar Jabar al-Badrani, said they came under U.S. fire while attempting to cover the aftermath of the downing of a U.S. helicopter by guerrillas and were later detained by U.S. soldiers. According to press reports, a fourth journalist, Ali Mohammed Hussein al-Badrani, a cameraman for the U.S.-based television network NBC, was also detained in the same incident. The media workers, who are all Iraqis, were held for three days before being released on January 5. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported on January 13 that the journalists were blindfolded, forced to stand for hours with their arms raised, and threatened with sexual abuse. Citing a family member of one of the journalists, the paper said that U.S. interrogators forced one of the men to take off his clothes and forced him to put a shoe into his mouth. CPJ expressed concern about the detentions in a January 21 letter to U.S. Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez. (Read the letter)
The Reuters letter also requested a copy of the U.S. military’s report investigating the death of the news agency’s cameraman Mazen Dana, who was shot and killed by U.S. troops outside Baghdad on August 17, 2003. Reuters said that the report had been promised for several months but had not been delivered.