Two journalists detained by U.S. military

New York, September 4, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the detention of two Iraqi journalists by the U.S. military in separate incidents and calls on the authorities to make clear any charges against them or release them immediately.

Omar Husham, 28‎, was arrested along with his father and two brothers at his house in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah, The Associated Press reported. He is a cameraman with Baghdad TV‎, a satellite channel owned by the Iraqi Islamic Party. A colleague said that Husham had press badges issued by the U.S. authorities in Iraq.

Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer working for Reuters, was detained on Tuesday by U.S. and Iraqi forces, according to the news agency. Jassam was arrested during a raid at his home in Mahmoodiya, south of Baghdad, Reuters reported. The news agency expressed its concern about the case and urged the military to disclose the basis on which he is being held.

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.” He also said that the military will review their cases. 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.

“We are concerned about this spike in detentions of Iraqi journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the U.S. military to present any formal charges against Omar Husham and Ibrahim Jassam or release them immediately. We ask that the military abide by its stated commitment to review these cases in 36 hours of the detentions.”

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 to renew his press card.