Reporters Without Borders today called on the British soldiers in southern Iraq to help more in the search for two missing ITN journalists after they reportedly denied US military claims that they found the journalists’ press cards in a raid on a Baath party office. French cameraman Fred Nerac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Othman went missing after coming under fire near Basra on 22 March.
"The British forces are better positioned now than anyone else to obtain information and carry out an active investigation, but they are not doing everything in their power to locate Nerac and Othman," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said.
"We call on British defence minister Geoffrey Hoon to give a formal assurance that everything possible will be done to obtain information that is likely to shed light on the fate of these two missing journalists, and that instructions to this effect will be given to the British troops in the field in Basra," Ménard said.
Nerac’s wife Fabienne Nerac confirmed to Reporters Without Borders that the US military contacted ITN’s own team of investigators in Iraq to tell them the press cards of the two missing journalists had been found.
According to the American military, the press cards were found by soldiers of Britain’s Royal Fusiliers during a raid on the headquarters of the Baath party in Al-Zubair on an unspecified date. However, when questioned by the ITN investigators, the British military denied that they found the press cards and said they had no information of any kind.
Nerac and Othman have been missing since the four-member ITN crew they were working with came under fire on 22 March near Basra, probably from US marines. The other two members of the team were British reporter Terry Lloyd, 51, who was killed in the incident, and Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier, who was wounded.