BRUSSELS - The head of the world's biggest journalists' organization said a U.S. bomb and missile attack on Iraqi television on Wednesday was an attempt at censorship and may have breached the Geneva Conventions.
"I think there should be a clear international investigation into whether or not this bombing violates the Geneva Conventions," Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), told Reuters.
"We have every reason to believe this is an act of censorship against media that U.S. politicians and military strategists don't like," he said.
A U.S. official in Washington earlier said the raid had hit the main television station, a key telecommunications vault and Baghdad satellite communications, damaging the government's command and control capability.
But White said U.S. strikes would have targeted television earlier if it had been a military target.
"There is no question that this attack reflects the anger and frustration of political leaders in the United States over the showing of prisoners on television and the use of television to boost the morale of Saddam Hussein supporters," said White.
"This is the only credible explanation for this attack."
He said the IFJ, which represents more than 500,000 journalists in 100 countries, believed there was no military justification for the raid, which recalled NATO's bombing of Radio Television Serbia during the Kosovo war three years ago.
"Once again, we see military and political commanders from the democratic world targeting a television network simply because they don't like the message it gives out," he said.
Despite the attack, Iraqi television came on air at about 9 a.m., and state radio was also broadcasting normally. Iraq's 24-hour international satellite television channel ceased broadcasting during the raids but came back on air at about 0920 GMT with patriotic songs.
The IFJ said international law forbade attacks on television and radio stations unless they were used for military purposes, and there was no evidence this was the case in Iraq.
Nor did the IFJ believe television broadcasts could include coded messages to the Iraqi army. "The idea that Iraqi soldiers are sitting in the desert watching television to get their orders is absurd," White said.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd