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Iraq26 March 2003

Gen. Tommy Franks asked to order enquiry into death of British TV reporter and disappearance of two colleagues

Reporters Without Borders today wrote to Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the coalition forces operating in Iraq, to ask him to order an immediate enquiry into the exact circumstances of the death of British TV reporter Terry Lloyd of Independent Television News (ITN) and disappearance of his French cameraman Frédéric Nerac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Othman on 22 March near Basra in southern Iraq. Various sources have said they came under fire from coalition forces.

The British defence ministry said it has opened an enquiry into the death of Lloyd, who was 51. A ministry spokesman said on 25 March that he had no new details and did not want to comment on reports that Lloyd and his colleagues were hit by friendly fire. Reporters Without Borders urged the British authorities to include the disappearances of Nerac and Othman in their enquiry.

The ITN crew, which was not "embedded" in any coalition unit and which was travelling in two jeeps marked "TV" came under fire at Iman Anas as it was approaching Basra. According to ITN cameraman Daniel Demoustier, who was wounded in the incident, the jeeps came under heavy fire from coalition forces. He said this occurred after they had found themselves facing Iraqi soldiers and had turned back. At this point, coalition tanks opened fire on the two vehicles, which took direct hits, he said. "They had probably been aiming at the Iraqis although I am sure the Iraqis were trying to surrender," Demoustier said. "They were killed within several minutes," he added.

The toll on the news media after seven days of fighting in Iraq is two journalists killed, two reported missing for five days, at least two others wounded, and two arrested by the Iraqis.

Two Iranian journalists working for the satellite channel Dubai Television, reporter Ali Montazeri and cameraman Abdolreza Abbasi, were arrested by Iraqis in civilian dress on 24 March shortly after entering Iraq across the Iranian border at Arvand Kenar with the aim of going to the Al-Faw peninsula. According to Montazeri’s son, who witnessed their detention from the other side of the border, they were detained by Iraqi security agents. Other sources said the Iraqis handed them over to the British forces. Ali Montazeri also worked for the Lebanese TV channel LBC.

Australian cameraman Paul Moran, 39, who worked for the Australian TV channel ABC, was killed by a car-bomb in Iraqi Kurdistan on 22 March. ABC reporter Eric Campbell was injured in the same explosion. Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer said it was a suicide attack by an Islamic terrorist organisation linked to al-Qaeda that was carried out in reprisal for the US bombing of Iraq. Downer identified the group as Ansar al-Islam, which had been active for some time in northern Iraq. Officials of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) also blamed Ansar al-Islam.

These two confirmed deaths must be added to the long list of journalists who have been killed in the course of their work. A total of 538 journalists were killed from 1992 to 2002, almost half of them in war zones. In 73 per cent of these cases, the victims were identified as journalists and were killed in attacks or by gunfire. Only 27 per cent of the deaths were accidental.

Four journalists were killed in the 1991 Gulf war. German photographer Gad Gross was shot dead by the Iraqi army in Iraqi Kurdistan. Three British freelance journalists who were covering the war for the BBC were probably killed by their Turkish guide.

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