Amy Goodman: The international press watch group Reporters Without
Borders has accused the US and British coalition forces in Iraq of displaying
contempt for journalists covering the conflict who are not embedded
with troops. The criticism comes after a group of four unilateral
or roving reporters revealed how they were arrested by US military police
as they slept near a US unit a hundred miles south of Baghdad and were
held overnight. They described their ordeal as the worst 48 hours of
their lives. The four journalistsIsraeli journalist Dan Scemama,
Boaz Bismuth, and Portuguese Luis Castro and Victor Silva, entered Iraq
in a jeep and followed a US convoy though they were not officially attached
to the troops. US military police seized the journalists outside their
base, detained them even though they were carrying international press
cards. The group claimed they were mistreated and denied contact with
their families. Were joined now by Dan Scemama in Israel. Welcome
to Democracy Now!
Dan Scemama, Israel Channel One correspondent: Hi, good afternoon.
Amy Goodman: Its good to have you with us. Can you describe
exactly what happened.
Dan Scemama: Yes, we went into Iraq to report about the war.
We went on a jeep that we had that we rented. We went with four guys.
We all had credentials that we got from the American army. On the credential
it was written unilateral and it was not written embedded.
We just went in and we saw the British crews fighting, we saw the American
We spent our nights with the American and the British soldiers, each
time in another camp, in another place where they were parked. We were
with them. We got to a place which was 120 kilometers southkilometers
which I think is seventy, maybe, miles south of Baghdad and there we
met a group of, of the army of soldiers, and there was there also Ted
Koppel was there with uniforms, with a big helmet on his head. And Ted
Koppel looked at me and said to me, Youre crazy, you dont
have a gas mask. Are you crazy? Because theyre going to use chemical
weapons. And I did not recognize Ted Koppel of course. Then I
found out that it was him. Then we are asked by the army there to try
and get gas masks, because if not, its very dangerous for our
Dont mess with my soldiers. Dont mess with them because they are trained like dogs to kill. And they will kill you if you try again.
US Army First Lieutenant
So we went south a little bit. We met another American troop, a chemical
officer we met. We asked him for a gas mask and he gave it to us as
a gift, which, what Im trying to tell you is, we met a lot of
American soldiers, and a lot of beautiful people that helped us. That
understood what we were doing there, that a lot of times were trying
to help us as much as they could. Until we got to this one group of
soldiers in which the head of them was a guy that called himselfhe
did not call himselfwe succeeded to find out his name because
he did not want to identify himself. And his name was First Lieutenant
Scholl which I will never forget his name. And him, with his soldiers
have decided that we are very dangerous spies for Iraq. They decided
that the CD player that we had is an electronic device that we used
to tell the Iraqis where the American soldiers are. They took away our
cameras. They took away our ID cards. They took away our money. They
took our phones. They put their guns towards us. They forced us to lie
down on the floor. To take our shirts up to make sure we didnt
have any explosives on our bodies. They checked usour bodiesthey
checked our carsIm afraid Im too long so maybe you
have another question and then I will continue.
Amy Goodman: Was one of the Portuguese reporters beaten up?
Dan Scemama: Yes. After we were arrested at six o clock
in the morning by these guys, and at about 11:30 I think it was, some
five and a half hours after we were arrested, he kind of lost his patience,
the Portuguese guy, and they put us in our jeep, they closed us inside
the jeep and they said we are not allowed to get out of the jeep and
we are supposed to stay there. And uh, so the Portuguese guy got out
of the jeep, approached the armythe camp and said Please,
please, I am begging you, I have a wife and children. Let me just make
a call, a telephone call to tell them that we are safe, that we are
with you, the Americans and not with the Iraqis. They might think at
home that we are killed by Iraqis. Please just let us tell them that.
And they said to him, Go immediately to your car. And he
said, Please I am begging you. Five soldiers went out of
the camp, jumped on him and started to beat him and to kick him. We
ran to his direction. They all put bullets inside the cannons of their
guns, and they said if we move forward they shoot at us. We were standing
like stupid guys. We saw our friend lying on the ground crying, hurting.
They tied his hand behind his back. They took him into the camp. And
after half-an-hour, they let him go, and came back to us all crying.
And then came this Lieutenant Scholl. And he told us, Dont
mess with my soldiers. Dont mess with them because they are trained
like dogs to kill. And they will kill you if you try again.
Amy Goodman: Well, Dan Scemama, how long were you held by the
Dan Scemama: We were there in our jeep for thirty-six hours
outside the camp. They asked us if we need anything. They came politely,
very nice, Lieutenant Scholl, he came again. Do you need anything?
And we said Yes, if you can give us a little food. And he
said, I dont have enough food for my soldiers. I will not
give you food. After about an hour, we saw a soldier going with
watera bottle of waterin our direction. And we said Look!
Something human is happening here. Somebody is coming to us with water!
And then we saw that he gave the water to a dog that was there, not
Amy Goodman: Well
Dan Scemama: And they kept us thirty-six hours and after thirty-six
hours they put us on a helicopter and sent us to Kuwait. And we thought,
okay, now we are safe. And in the military campAmerican military
camp in Kuwait, they hold us in a tent, standing up for six hours. An
officer was standing next to us, I dont remember his name. One
of the sergeants who was there said, Do you want a cup of coffee?
And the officer who was there shouted at them Dont give
them anything! Dont tell them anything. Dont talk to them,
dont be nice to them! and he said to us, Dont
move and dont talk to each other. This was already after
40-something hours that we were there. And suddenly at six o clock
in the morning, that was exactly 48 hours from the moment we were caught,
or everything started, they said Guys, everything is finished,
everything is finished, what hotel are you staying in Kuwait City, well
take you to your hotel. Listen what we did, we asked Can
we use our mobile phones? Our satellite phones? And they said
Yes. And we all took the satellite phones that we had and
we called home.
We all four of us started to cry and the Sergeant that six hours before
wanted to give us a cup of coffee, came to us, a Sergeant Major of the
American army and he started to hug us, he was crying. And he said,
Believe me, its not all the American army, excuse me I love
you, I am with you, excuse us, please and please and please. This all
was finished. They took me to my hotel. And when I arrived in my hotel,
five minutes later, I had time to take a shower, I wanted to eat something,
because I did not eat for a long time. And five minutes after I finished
my shower, people knocked on my door in my hotel. And it was Kuwaiti
secret police. And they told me for your own safety, we have to show
you out of Kuwait immediately. And they took me to the airport and threw
me out of Kuwait. Im sure the Americans did that.
Amy Goodman: Well, Dan Scemama, I want to thank you for recounting what happened to you and your colleagues, another Israeli journalist and two Portuguese journalists.
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