US accused of hypocrisy over reporter deaths

Senior American officials have been accused of hypocrisy after a ceremony to honour US journalists killed during the country's "war on terror".

    Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in 2002

    About 200 people, including deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, attended the unveiling of a memorial plaque for the reporters in Burkittsville, Maryland, on Wednesday.

    The ceremony was in honour of Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal, who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

    Also commemorated were three journalists who were embedded with US fighting units in Iraq this year - Michael Kelly of the Atlantic Monthly and Washington Post, David Bloom of NBC, and Elizabeth Neuffer of the Boston Globe.

    Kelly, Bloom and Neuffer were among 18 journalists who have died in Iraq since the US invasion in March, including five killed by US forces.

    Slain journalists

    "Our nation, particularly the Department of Defence and our men and women who serve ... in uniform, take note of the extraordinary contribution to freedom that has been made by correspondents who've given their lives on the battlefield," Wolfowitz said in a speech.

    Tareq Ayyoub paid the ultimate
    sacrifice for his profession

    However, David Miller, author of Tell Me Lies - Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq, criticised the exclusion of slain foreign journalists from the ceremony.

    Miller, an academic at Scotland's Stirling University, said: "I think the fact that foreign journalists were excluded sends out the wrong message. They are basically saying: 'If you're not with us you risk being killed.'"

    He also said Wolfowitz's tribute to freedom of speech was hypocritical.

    "I think it's a bit rich considering the Americans spent the entire duration of the Iraq war trying to restrict freedom of speech. 

    Restricting freedom

    "The whole idea of embedding journalists with troops was to ensure independent journalism was controlled while the compliant journalists were allowed to get their pretty pictures."

    "Major news organisations have never been interested in challenging the establishment. The senior figures in these organisations often come from the same social background as those in government and they identify with them ... I think the whole media is becoming increasingly marketised and less interested in telling the truth"

    David Miller
    Stirling University

    And Miller poured scorn on the mainstream media's sometimes cosy relationship with officialdom. 

    "Major news organisations have never been interested in challenging the establishment. The senior figures in these organisations often come from the same social background as those in government and they identify with them."

    He added: "I think the whole media is becoming increasingly marketised and less interested in telling the truth."

    Five hundred and twenty journalists travelled into Iraq with Army, Marine and British ground forces during the six weeks of major combat operations in Iraq.

    Cameraman death

    Last month, top US Army officers admitted using news coverage by embedded journalists in Iraq to achieve military goals.

    Meanwhile, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called for the details of an internal military investigation into the death of a TV cameramen to be made public.

    The Pentagon has also been unwilling to release a report on its investigation into the death of Reuter's Mazen Dana, who was shot by a US soldier on the outskirts of Baghdad while filming. 

    Al-Jazeera cameraman Tariq Ayyoub, 35, a Jordanian, was also killed when a missile hit and badly damaged the station's offices near the Mansour Hotel in the centre of Baghdad.

    Rules of engagement

    Ayyoub, who was the station's permanent correspondent in Amman, was sent to beef up the team in Iraq when the war broke out. He was seriously wounded in the attack and died soon afterwards.

    "The Pentagon talks about rules of engagement. But they won't make public what the rules of engagement are," said the CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.

    "Increasingly, journalists on the ground in Iraq feel like the rules of engagement have been cut down to: 'shoot first, and ask questions later,'" she added.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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