Reporters Without Borders called today on all sides in the Iraq war to help find nine journalists who are missing in the war zone, some of them since the start of the eight-day conflict.
"We are very worried and we urge the Iraqi, US and British authorities to make every effort to help find them," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "Confusion on the battlefield and the ongoing fighting must not be used as an excuse for Iraqi and US-British forces to ignore the safety of reporters and cameramen who have come to cover a war that has already cost lives among the media."
A cameraman for the pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera disappeared today in Basra (southern Iraq) after the four-man crew he was with came under fire from British tanks. The crew had rented a civilian vehicle to go to where food relief was being distributed by the Iraqi authorities and was preparing to film the arrival of the British tanks when the tanks opened fire.
Three of the crew fled on foot but the cameraman’s equipment was to heavy to carry easily and he hid. The station has not heard of him since.
A team of four journalists from the British TV station ITN came under fire on 22 March in Basra, probably from US-British forces. One of them, Terry Lloyd, 51, was killed and two others - French cameraman Fred Nérac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman — are still missing.
The Al-Arabiya TV station has been without word since 22 March of three of its team - Syrian reporter Wael Awad, cameraman Talal Fawzi al-Masri and technician Ali Hassan Safa, both Lebanese. They were travelling between Al-Zubair and Nassiriya when the station lost contact with them.
The Pentagon said it knew of no journalists killed or wounded in the area. Al-Arabiya told Reporters Without Borders it was not sure if they were actually "embedded" with the US army’s 101st Airborne Division. Centcom military headquarters in Qatar said the three were not on its list of embedded journalists but said they may have been accredited by the army in Kuwait.
The station is regularly broadcasting photos of the three in the hope they will be recognised by Iraqis who will come forward with news about them.
Two journalists from the US daily paper Newsday, Moises Saman and Matthew McAllester, were seen for the last time at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on the evening of 24 March. The Iraqi authorities were preparing to deport them and other foreign journalists for entering the country only on tourist visas, according to an Italian journalist Reporters Without Borders talked to.
Several special correspondents in the city said the authorities had wanted to expel them by road in a bus, probably to Damascus. Freelance French-American photographer Molly Bingham, also reported to be among those to be deported, is missing too.
Two journalists have been killed since the start of the war - ITN’s Terry Lloyd and Australian cameraman Paul Moran, of Australia’s ABC TV, who was reporting in Kurdistan (northern Iraq). At least two other journalists have been wounded.