Reuters cameraman freed but U.S. still holds other journalists

New York, August 31, 2005—
The U.S. military in Iraq today released a Reuters cameraman held for three days without charge, but it continued to hold another Reuters freelancer and at least four other journalists on unspecified charges.

Reuters said Haidar Kadhem was freed in Baghdad where he was detained on Sunday after coming under fire, apparently by U.S. troops. He was traveling on assignment in a car with his soundman Walid Khaled, who was shot dead. Kadhem was lightly wounded in the shooting to which he was the only known eyewitness. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Boylan told CPJ that Kadhem had been detained “due to inconsistencies in his story” that “warrant further questioning.”

Another Reuters journalist, freelance photographer and cameraman. Ali Mashhadani has been held incommunicado and without explanation by U.S. forces since August 8.
“This is simply unacceptable,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Through these detentions the U.S. military gives every impression that it is not accountable. That’s a bad example to give the citizens of an emerging democracy.”

Reuters reported that on Monday that a US-Iraqi review board had determined that Mashhadani posed a “threat” and ordered his continued detention. “The [review board] has determined that Mr. Mashhadani remains a threat to the people of Iraq and they recommended continued internment,” the news agency quoted Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill as saying. Rudisill said Mashhadani was being held in Abu Ghraib prison and would be denied access to counsel or family for 60 days, but would be granted a review of his case within 180 days.

Rudisill said he was aware of at least four other journalists working for major news organizations who were being held. Among them were an unnamed freelancer who has previously worked for Reuters, and a freelance cameraman for the U.S. broadcaster CBS News who was detained in April. The CBS cameraman was taken into custody after being wounded by U.S. forces’ fire while he filmed clashes in Mosul in northern Iraq. CBS News reported at the time that the U.S. military said footage in the journalists’ camera led them to suspect he had prior knowledge of attacks against coalition forces. AFP also cited U.S. officials as saying the journalist “tested positive for explosive residue.” No charges have been made public.

U.S. and Iraqi military forces routinely detain Iraqi journalists without charge or explanation, and some have been held for months. U.S. military officials have voiced suspicions on several occasions that some Iraqi journalists collaborated with Iraqi insurgents and had advance knowledge of attacks on coalition forces. But the military has never provided evidence to substantiate any claims. In previous instances, journalists detained on such suspicions were released without charge.