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IFJ calls on authorities to end "shameful silence" over journalists killed during Iraq war

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls on Iraq and United States to End "Shameful Silence" over Killed Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Governments of Iraq and the United States to issue reports and investigations into the widespread targeting and killing of reporters and media staff during the Iraq war. The IFJ says 273 media lives have been lost since the fall of Baghdad to American troops five years ago this week.

In January the Iraqi government promised a high-ranking IFJ delegation that it would publish a report on the killing of journalists "within days" - but it has still not done so. And the IFJ is still insisting that the killing of three journalists by United States troops in Baghdad on April 8, 2003, and a number of other unexplained media deaths at the hands of the American army must be properly investigated.

"A few weeks ago the leader of Iraqi journalists was himself gunned down by unknown killers," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The shameful silence of the authorities over all of these deaths gives an impression of callous indifference and toleration of impunity."

The IFJ says that justice for all the media victims of the war can only be served by full, inclusive and searching inquiries to find the killers and bring them to justice.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the attack by US troops on the Palestine Hotel, which housed scores of media personnel, killing Taras Protsyuk of Reuters and Jose Cuoso, of the Telecinco network in Spain. On the same morning, journalist Tareq Ayyoub was killed when the Baghdad offices of the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera were attacked by US fighter planes. The deaths have still not been properly explained.

The IFJ and its member unions are insisting that Iraqi authorities take seriously the concerted attack on journalists by terrorists and other extremists. They were promised a report only a few weeks before the shooting, on February 23, of Shihab Al-Timimi, the President of the Iraqi Union of Journalists, in Baghdad. Al-Timimi, 75, died four days later from bullet wounds sustained in the attack outside the union's offices.

"The agreement between the President and leading political parties in Iraq to support the government in its fight against militias, and a call on all political factions to dismantle its militia is welcome," said White. "But if the Iraqi government wants the support of journalists community it must make good on its promise to publish a report and expose those who are killing journalists."

In December 2006, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1738, a measure championed by the IFJ and its member unions that protects journalists in conflict zones and says killing them can be considered a war crime.

The IFJ has also demanded action over the deaths of British ITN reporter Terry Lloyd and his colleagues Fred Nérac and Hussein Osman, whose bodies are still missing, in a fire fight between US and Iraqi troops near Basra, in March 2003 as the invasion of Iraq gathered pace and has raised questions over the shooting by US soldiers of Reuters cameramen Mazen Dana. In October 2006 a British coroner ruled that the death of ITN reporter Terry Lloyd in the Basra fire-fight was an "unlawful killing."

"The shadow of impunity continues to fall over Iraq where journalists have been prominent among the victims," said White. "It's time for the Iraqi and American authorities to take their responsibility for ending the uncertainty and ignorance about what has happened to our colleagues."

To read the IFJ letter to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, see: http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/April8Letter080408Maliki.pdf

To read the IFJ letter to US Secretary of Defence Rober Gates, see: http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/April8Letter080408GATES.pdf

To read the release in Arabic, see: http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/IraqApril8finalAR.pdf

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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