Published on Wednesday, April 9, 2003 by Reuters
Protests Build Over Journalists Deaths in Iraq
by Merissa Marr
LONDON - Journalists walked off the job and politicians demanded answers on Wednesday in a new broadside against the United States over the deaths of three journalists in Baghdad.
From Egypt to Mexico City, media vented their fury after U.S. fire killed journalists from Reuters news agency, Spanish broadcaster Telecinco and Arab television channel al-Jazeera in Baghdad on Tuesday.
At a separate protest outside the U.S. embassy in the Spanish capital, shouts of "murderers" rang out.
Earlier in Paris, Straw said he was still seeking an explanation for the deaths in Baghdad.
"I haven't had a detailed report, but I'm going to ask for one," Straw told reporters at a joint news conference with France's foreign minister before flying to Madrid.
U.S. forces said they were responding to sniper fire when a U.S. tank fired at a Baghdad hotel packed with journalists, killing Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Telecinco's Jose Couso. But journalists at the scene said they heard no fire.
In a separate incident, al-Jazeera said reporter-producer Tarek Ayoub was killed in a U.S. air raid on Baghdad. Al-Jazeera accused the United Sates of deliberately bombing its offices to silence a powerful voice in the Arab world.
Journalist groups called on the Pentagon for an immediate investigation into Tuesday's events, demanding proof the attacks were not deliberately aimed at journalists.
In the Arab world, media on Wednesday accused the United States of intentionally "killing witnesses." Egyptian newspapers said the U.S. fire was aimed at muzzling independent coverage, with opposition daily al-Ahrar calling the attack "a massacre."
In Mexico, the respected El Universal daily said on its front page: "The U.S. is now murdering journalists."
The Iraq war has proved more deadly for the media than both the first Gulf War and the Afghan conflict, with 10 people killed while covering this conflict so far.
Many other journalists have been held by Iraqi authorities. As images of the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government emerged from Baghdad on Wednesday, seven Italian journalists were allowed to leave the hotel where they had been held for 13 days.
News organizations were considering pulling reporters out of Iraq after the three deaths in Baghdad.
Al-Jazeera, which has been criticized by the United States for showing images of slain Western soldiers, said it was trying to pull its reporters out of Iraq after Ayoub's death.
More than 1,000 journalists are in Iraq covering the war.
The demands of 24-hour-a-day television coverage, hundreds more journalists and multiple battle fronts have put journalists under added pressure in this conflict.
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Workers at Spanish state broadcaster RTVE issued a statement on Wednesday calling for an explanation for the U.S. tank attack and to "demand from the U.S. administration guarantees and an explicit commitment not to attack media locations again."
The Pentagon said on Tuesday it regretted the deaths but noted it had repeatedly warned journalists of the dangers.
A Spanish Defense Ministry spokesman said the United States had said it warned journalists that the Baghdad hotel attacked "could become a military target."
Reuters said on Wednesday it was in regular contact with U.S. military authorities about the incident. (Additional reporting by Dan Trotta in Madrid, Catherine Bremer in Paris, Alistair Bell in Mexico City and Sami Aboudi in Cairo)
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd