U.S. detains cameraman, only known witness

New York, August 29, 2005—
The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed shock and alarm today after an Iraqi soundman on assignment for the Reuters news agency was shot by U.S. forces in Baghdad on Sunday. CPJ also called for the immediate release of a Reuters cameraman wounded in the shooting and still being detained by U.S. forces today.

Waleed Khaled, 35, was shot several times in the face and chest as he drove with cameraman Haidar Kadhem to investigate a report of clashes between armed men and police in Baghdad’s Hay al-Adil district, Reuters reported.

Reuters quoted an Iraqi police report as saying: “A team from Reuters news agency was on assignment to cover the killing of two policemen in Hay al-Adil; U.S. forces opened fire on the team from Reuters and killed Waleed Khaled, who was shot in the head, and wounded Haider Kadhem.”

Kadhem, the only known eyewitness, was wounded in the back and was being held at an undisclosed location. Before Kadhem was detained, he told reporters at the scene that he heard gunfire and saw a U.S. sniper on the roof a nearby shopping center.

“It’s appalling that Haidar Kadhem, a victim of this shooting, is now in U.S. custody without credible justification. We demand his immediate release,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.

Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraqi, told CPJ that there was “an open investigation into the events,” and couldn’t comment further. He said Kadhem had been detained “due to inconsistencies in his story” that “warrant further questioning.”

CPJ called for an investigation into the shooting. “We are shocked by this senseless death of our colleague, and we call on the U.S. military to provide answers about this tragedy,” Cooper said.

Fifty-three journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led war began in March 2003. U.S. forces were responsible for at least 12 of the deaths prior to Sunday’s shooting, according to CPJ research. Another 21 media workers have been killed in Iraq, two by U.S. forces. The circumstances surrounding several of these deaths suggest indifference on the part of U.S. forces to the presence of civilians, including members of the press, according to CPJ’s analysis of the killings.

U.S. forces regularly detain Iraqi journalists in the line of duty. Ali Mashhadani, a 36-year-old freelance cameraman and photographer working for Reuters in Ramadi, has been held incommunicado and without explanation by U.S. forces since August 8. Several other Iraqi journalists are believed to be held under similar circumstances.

Last week CPJ called on U.S. authorities in Iraq to “credibly explain the basis for the detention of Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani and other journalists being held without charge, or release them at once.”