Cameraman freed by U.S.; another held

New York, September 8, 2008The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of a cameraman held by U.S. forces in Iraq, and calls on the military to release a freelance journalist working for Reuters who has been held since Tuesday.

Omar Husham, 28‎, a cameraman with Baghdad TV‎, a satellite channel owned by the Iraqi Islamic Party, was freed on Friday without charges after one day in custody, according to one of his colleagues.

Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer for Reuters, was arrested last week during a raid at his home in Mahmoodiya, south of Baghdad, Reuters reported.

In March 2006, Army Maj. Gen. Gardner told Reuters in Baghdad that the U.S. military had established a goal of reviewing cases of detained journalists within 36 hours. Pentagon spokesman Whitman confirmed to CPJ in Washington at the time: “The intent is to bring better visibility and quicker attention to the [U.S. military] leadership when a journalist is detained.”

“We welcome the release of Omar Husham, but worry about the apparent uptick in journalist detentions,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Almost a week has now passed since Ibrahim Jassam was taken into custody. We are concerned that the U.S. military has not met its stated goal of reviewing such detentions within 36 hours.”

At the time of both arrests, a U.S. military spokesman told CPJ that both journalists were detained because they were “assessed to be a threat to the security of Iraq and coalition forces.”

Husham had been arrested, along with his father and two brothers at his house in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah, The Associated Press reported.

One of his colleagues told CPJ that troops broke down his door to arrest him and confiscated his family’s cash savings. His father and brothers remain in military custody.

CPJ has documented several cases of Iraqi journalists who have been held by U.S. forces for weeks or months without charge or conviction. All were released without any substantiated charges. Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was held for two years on vague accusations that he collaborated with Iraqi insurgents. Hussein was freed in April 2008.

On August 25, Ahmed Nouri Raziak, 38, who has worked for APTN since 2003, was released after spending nearly three months in detention at his home in Tikrit, northwest of Baghdad, without charge. On August 21, Ali al-Mashhadani, 39, was freed after three weeks of detention without charge. U.S. military forces detained him in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where he had gone to renew his press card.