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Spanish journalists stand up for fallen colleagues

by Media activist Thursday, Apr. 10, 2003 at 3:20 PM

When will American journalists learn to be so bold as to stand up for what's right?

Spanish journalists snub Straw

Journalists walk out of press conference in protest at deaths of Baghdad reporters

Ciar Byrne

Wednesday April 9, 2003

Spanish journalists today snubbed Spain's prime minister and Britain's foreign secretary in protest at the death of the Spanish TV cameraman who was killed by a US tank shell in Baghdad.

At a speech at Madrid's senate today, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar expressed his condolences for Jose Couso, a journalist working for Spanish TV network Tele 5 who was killed at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, and for Julio Anguito Parrado, a Spanish journalist killed on Monday when an Iraqi missile hit a US military base south of Baghdad.

However, between 30 and 40 journalists present boycotted the speech by downing their cameras, microphones and notebooks and standing in stony silence.

Also today about 20 Spanish journalists walked out of a press conference in Paris with Jack Straw and his Spanish counterpart, Ana Palacio, after just one question.

A colleague of Couso at Tele 5 asked Ms Palacio about reports that US forces had declared the Palestine Hotel a military target 48 hours before the blast that killed Couso and Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk.

The hotel has been the centre for most of the foreign media in the Iraqi capital throughout the war.

Ms Palacio was evasive, referring the questioner to comments by the Spanish defence minister, Federico Trillo, who recommended last night that Spanish journalists should leave Baghdad because the city had grown too dangerous.

But she said Spain was determined to press the US for a thorough investigation, saying: "I've been told there circumstances that were at the least surprising."

Mr Aznar was targeted again in the afternoon in the lower chamber of Spain's parliament as he arrived for a weekly question-and-answer session with the opposition.

A dozen photographers, who usually gather round to film him taking his seat, suddenly turned their backs on the prime minister and held up enlarged photos of Couso. Opposition politicians clapped at the gesture.

Hundreds of journalists also protested on outside the US embassy in Madrid.

Mr Straw declared today he was "very concerned" about the killing of journalists in Iraq and said he would demand a detailed account about US attacks on the Palestine Hotel and the offices of two Arabic television stations in Baghdad.

"I haven't had a detailed report but I'm going to ask for one this morning about the precise circumstances of these deaths," Mr Straw said.

"Of course, I'm very concerned indeed about the deaths of the journalists, as I am about the deaths of all innocent people in this conflict," he added.

The US military has given differing accounts of why one of its tanks fired on the journalists' hotel, initially suggesting there was enemy sniper fire coming from the building, and later claiming enemy binoculars had been spotted.

However, journalists on the scene yesterday said they had not heard any gunfire coming from the hotel and one Associated Press photographer questioned how the military could have seen enemy binoculars and not journalists' camera lenses.

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