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Media groups enraged over coalition attacks on journalists

by Thursday, Apr. 10, 2003 at 5:37 PM

Further information on the recent deaths of journalists killed by U.S. forces in Baghdad Tuesday has caused concern amongst major media outlets in addition to media watchdog groups

Report by

CHICAGO ( -- Further information on the recent deaths of journalists killed by U.S. forces in Baghdad Tuesday has caused concern amongst major media outlets in addition to media watchdog groups.

As News From the Front (NFTF) reported yesterday, journalists reporting from Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV had their offices bombed during a U.S. air strike over Baghdad. A U.S. tank also fired on journalists in the Palestine Hotel within hours of the first attacks. In both cases, the U.S. military expressed their regret for the losses, claiming they did not intentionally target the journalists and media organizations.

Yet Majed Abdel Hadi, a Baghdad correspondent for Al Jazeera, accused the U.S. of "deliberately" targeting Al Jazeera's offices. Hadi reiterated the fact that the U.S. also landed "four missiles" at Al Jazeera's Kabul office -- just ten minutes after its correspondents were warned about an upcoming attack -- during the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.

CNN Correspondent Rym Brahimi has stated that both the Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV buildings were visibly marked; the names of the networks were printed in large letters on sheets attached to the building. Furthermore, Al Jazeera's chief editor, Abrahim Hilal, told the media that the U.S. military was informed of the exact location of Al Jazeera's Baghdad offices, including the street number, map and GPS coordinates.

According to Al Jazeera correspondent Tayseer Allouni, at the time of the attack well-known Al Jazeera journalist Tareq Ayoub and cameraman Zuheir Iraqi were both standing on the roof of their Baghdad bureau preparing for a live broadcast when two missiles struck the building, killing Ayoub and injuring Iraqi. Allouni further elaborated that shortly after this strike, U.S. warplanes returned to hit the neighboring offices of Abu Dhabi TV.

Ayoub worked as a producer for Fox News Channel in 1998 and as a freelance producer for CNN in February before returning to work with Al Jazeera.

During the same morning, U.S. forces unleashed tank fire on the Palestine Hotel, arguing that they were being fired on by Iraqi snipers inside or on the roof of the hotel. Yet the hotel is well known as the base for some 200 journalists from all over the world. Furthermore, the firing tank was about a mile and a half from the hotel at the time; the greatest distance sniper fire can usually travel is about 2500 feet, while the range of rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) is considerably less.

These events have sparked outrage among the international media, demanding answers for the series of attacks on journalists operating in the field. Media organizations have been accusing the U.S. administration of hypocrisy. While the Bush administration is claiming that Iraqis will be prosecuted for violations of the Geneva Conventions, the Committee to Protect Journalists warned that the administration's own actions violate Article 79 of the Geneva Conventions concerning the safety of journalists.

Reporters Without Borders has also demanded that the U.S. prove they fired on the Palestine Hotel in self-defense. Robert Manard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, was quoted by CNN as saying: "We are appalled at what happened because it was known that both places contained journalists. We are concerned at the U.S. Army's increasingly hostile attitude towards journalists, especially those non-embedded in its military units."

The organization also claims that the surrounding neighborhood around the Palestine Hotel was very quiet at the time, as shown through French TV station footage. They further stated, "[The] U.S. tank crew took their time, waiting for a couple of minutes and adjusting its gun before opening fire." BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar, and a variety of other journalists in the hotel at the time, said that there was no gunfire coming out of the hotel prior to it being attacked by U.S. forces.

In a Fox News article, the Editor in Chief of Reuters, Geert Linnebank, who lost a correspondent due to U.S. fire on the Palestine Hotel, warned, "…the incident nonetheless raises questions about the judgment of the advancing U.S. troops who have known all along that this hotel is the main base for almost all foreign journalists in Baghdad."

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