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Making the world safe from journalists(34 posts)

Making the world safe from journalistsSpoiler
Aug 18, 2003 7:00 AM
AP-Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, 41, of the West Bank town of Hebron, was videotaping outside the prison hours after the attack when U.S. soldiers shot him. He was the 17th news organization employee to be killed since the war began.

The videotape in Dana's camera showed two U.S. tanks coming toward him. Shots were fired, apparently from the tanks, and Dana fell to the ground. His body was taken away by a U.S. helicopter.

"We saw a tank 50 meters away, I heard six shots and Mazen fell to the ground," Dana's driver Munzer Abbas said.

One of the soldiers started shouting at us, but when he knew we were journalists, he softened. One of the soldiers told us they thought Mazen carrying a rocket-propelled grenade."

SEVENTEEN journalists dead so far. If journalists want to avoid getting killed, their best bet is to disguise themselves as Saddam.
I almost want to say "duh?"DougSloan
Aug 18, 2003 7:21 AM
That's a little crass, but injecting yourself into the middle of a war has some risks, particularly when the opponents don't "respect" journalists the way we might here. I feel bad for them and their families, but I think they might be unduly risking themselves to get some ratings for their employers.

what did "opponents disrespecting" have to do with this?rufus
Aug 18, 2003 7:42 AM
sounds like it's our own forces "disrespecting" journalists. he's in a group of reporters, covering a story, and our tanks show up and start shooting. maybe they did mistake the camera for a weapon, but who really knows? this isn't the first incident of "coalition" forces targeting foreign journalists.
general comment about most instances nmDougSloan
Aug 18, 2003 7:46 AM
what did "opponents disrespecting" have to do with this?TJeanloz
Aug 18, 2003 7:48 AM
I would say the "opponents disrespecting" would come in the form of opponents who pretend to be members of the press in order to get in better position to attack. Not that I know of an incident where this occurred, but it seems like a tactic that would be employed in a guerrilla war. As it stands, I think I wouldn't point something shoulder-mounted in the direction of a group of soldiers. Actually, I think I would avoid pointing anything at a group of soldiers.
get the factsmohair_chair
Aug 18, 2003 8:01 AM
I've seen nothing that says he was in a group of journalists. By all accounts I've read, he was alone. And it's ridiculous to suggest that coalition forces are TARGETING journalists.

I feel sad for everyone involved here, but this guy knew exactly what he was doing when he entered a war zone. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, he was shot at least three times in 2000, by Israeli troops. He says he has been shot 70-80 times with rubber bullets, and beaten 100 times by soldiers. No, he doesn't deserve to be die, but with his record, it really doesn't come as a surprise.
get the factsrufus
Aug 18, 2003 8:38 AM

"We were all there, for at least half an hour. They knew we were journalists. After they shot Mazen, they aimed their guns at us. I don't think it was accident. They are very tense. They are crazy," said Stephan Breitner of France 2 television

Dana's driver, Munzer Abbas, said Dana had got out of the car when he saw the tanks approaching.

"We saw a tank, 50 meters away. I heard six shots and Mazen fell to the ground. One of the soldiers started shouting at us, but when he knew we were journalists, he softened. One of the soldiers told us they thought Mazen carrying a rocket-propelled grenade," said Abbas.

"There were many journalists around. They knew we were journalists. This was not an accident," he said.

Reuters quoted soundman Nael al-Shyoukhi, who was with Dana, as saying that the U.S. soldiers "saw us and they knew about our identities and our mission.
This doesn't add up...TJeanloz
Aug 18, 2003 8:52 AM
"Dana's driver, Munzer Abbas, said Dana had got out of the car when he saw the tanks approaching."

So, reporter sees tanks coming, jumps out of car, presumably points camera at tanks. If I'm a soldier, I see a guy jump out of his car and point something at me.

"We saw a tank, 50 meters away. I heard six shots and Mazen fell to the ground. One of the soldiers started shouting at us, but when he knew we were journalists, he softened."

So Mazen was shot, and fell to the ground. Then the soldier started shouting, and THEN he learned they were journalists, and softened. It's clear from that statement that the knowledge that they were journalists did not precede their shooting what they perceived to be an imminent threat. There obviously came a time when the soldiers did know that these were bona-fide journalists, the question is whether that time was before, or after, they shot one of them.
Aug 18, 2003 8:57 AM
Suppose French media has a bias toward making the US look bad?

of course, we hold no animosity toward the french. nmrufus
Aug 18, 2003 9:19 AM
Doug, what blame for the American soldiers?Fr Ted Crilly
Aug 18, 2003 8:10 AM
You've pointed out that this cameraman was taking a risk in doing his job, but does that mean that those who killed him are blameless? How do you, and others who appear to be fully behind the present US action in Iraq, believe that these soldiers should be punished? Or should we all just accept that either side shooting and killing civilians and reporters is part and part and parcel of this conflict and that no punishment is needed?
don't know enoughDougSloan
Aug 18, 2003 8:19 AM
I don't have enough facts to determine punishment, nor do I even know the standards by which soldiers are held accountable for this type of action. Essentially, in my view, if the soldier had a good faith reason to think he was in jeopardy, taking all the circumstances into account, I think he would not be punished. He might be admonished to be more careful, but then he should not be punished for defending himself or his unit.

Aug 18, 2003 8:19 AM
No, there should be no blame placed on the soldiers, unless there is reason to believe that they knew he was a journalist and posed no danger to them - and given the current situation I don't think that threshold could be met. We should just accept that persons who choose to put themselves in very dangerous situations may end up dead. This isn't a civilian caught in a crossfire - it's a journalist intentionally going into a crossfire, with something that looks like a weapon.
Aug 18, 2003 10:50 AM
All soldiers are criminals. All are assumed guilty until proven innocent.

"War is hell." W.T. Sherman.

Aug 18, 2003 9:52 AM
Those who don't value a reporters role deserve to be ruled in the same manner as North Korea.
hey, it's up to themDougSloan
Aug 18, 2003 9:58 AM
I'm not saying I don't value their role. All I'm saying is that if you stand in the middle of cross fire, don't complain if you get shot. Is a good 5 second video clip for the evening news worth dying for?

Aug 18, 2003 10:23 AM
I don't think I'll make a very good reporter. I get too emotional over events and take things personally.

In a way, reporting this incident is like asking a judge to preside over a case involving the death of his own brother. The judge certainly isn't going to say it's his brother's fault.
Aug 18, 2003 9:58 AM
Not carelessly ending someone's life is considered a show of respect? The message to reporters is "stay out of Iraq, stop providing the world with information." I don't think you agree with this.

Fortunately, we have reporters who have more courage behind a camera than soldiers have behind the sights of a gun.
Aug 18, 2003 10:03 AM
That last comment pure BS -- unsubstantiated, wrong, and misinformed. I'd say a reporter putting himself in that position is stupid, not courageous. Plus, what courage of soldiers are you doubting?

There are smarter and dumber ways of reporting. Pointing a big shoulder mounted thing at soldiers is the dumber, I'd say.

what position was he in?rufus
Aug 18, 2003 10:11 AM
this jail, or prison, or whatever had been bombed much earlier, and they were just there getting footage of the situation. there wasn't enemy fire going on, no crossfire to stand in, they were shooting pictures. and then the US tanks roll up and start firing.
That's contrary to the report:TJeanloz
Aug 18, 2003 10:18 AM
I doubt we'll ever really know what happened. Though, considering the claim that there was a gaggle of reporters around, one would think that somebody would have caught the whole incident on tape, no?

But, according to what YOU posted:

"Dana's driver, Munzer Abbas, said Dana had got out of the car when he saw the tanks approaching."

This CLEARLY says that the tanks rolled in BEFORE the reporter was shooting pictures. He gets out of the car, points his camera at the tanks, gets shot.

Also: "There were many journalists around. They knew we were journalists. This was not an accident,"

There may have been many journalists around, but this guy was in a car - not in a "group" of journalists.

It is a terrible accident, but I can hardly blame the soldiers, given the accounts I've seen.
That's contrary to the report:rufus
Aug 18, 2003 10:56 AM

Mazen Dana, a 43-year-old journalist, was killed by U.S. soldiers Sunday while working outside Abu Ghraib prison on Baghdad's outskirts after they apparently mistook his camera for a rocket-propelled grenade. His colleague, Nael Shyoukhi, said that shortly before the shooting a U.S. soldier at the prison had granted them permission to film. At least a half-dozen other journalists -- cameramen, photographers and reporters -- were working nearby, along a barren expanse intersected by a busy highway.

Dana and Shyoukhi had traveled to Abu Ghraib prison, once of the country's most notorious, after the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority announced that six Iraqis had been killed and 50 wounded in a mortar attack on the prison the day before. The two men, veteran Palestinian journalists based in the West Bank, were dressed in civilian clothes, and neither wore a flak jacket.

Shyoukhi said they spent 20 minutes at the prison gate, which was tucked behind sand-filled emplacements and barbed wire. When a U.S. soldier came out, they asked to interview him. He declined. They then asked him permission to film from a bridge about 500 yards away, which gives a commanding view of the prison's two-story cinder-block walls and series of guard posts.

"He said, no problem at all, you can go," the 31-year-old Shyoukhi recalled.

They chose a wide-open vantage point on the bridge, where they filmed for about 10 minutes, he said. At least two other camera crews were in the area, along with two photographers and a print reporter.

"We wanted to be sure they saw us, that we were close to them and that they knew we were journalists," Shyoukhi said.

They then drove a short distance to the base of the bridge. As they saw convoy approaching from the nearby village of Khan Dhari, they pulled over and got out with the camera. With Shyoukhi standing next to him, Dana filmed a few seconds of footage, which shows a tank heading toward them with two soldiers visible. Another tank was behind it. The footage captured the crack of at least five shots in quick succession. The camera appeared to lurch forward, then fell to the ground.

"We didn't expect at all they would shoot us," Shyoukhi said. "It was an open area, there were civilians, other cameras. If I thought one percent we were in danger, that they couldn't see us, we would have avoided it."

U.S. officials have said the soldiers mistook the blue canvas-wrapped camera and its white microphone for a rocket-propelled grenade, which is distinctive for its small warhead fired from a long tube.

"I can assure that no one probably feels any worse than the soldier who fired the rounds," Shields said.

The shots were fired from what appears to be 50 to 70 yards away. Malek Kanaan, a cameraman for the BBC who was filming about 100 yards away, said he thought Mazen's camera was easily visible in the late-afternoon light, as did residents in Khan Dhari.

"It was so clear," Kanaan said. "It was very obvious."

I'd be more careful,TJeanloz
Aug 18, 2003 11:20 AM
So, getting the O.K. from one soldier in the area gives you clearance to go all over the place?

The tank convoy was "approaching from the nearby village of Khan Dhari" - so obviously not the same group of soldiers. Don't you think the prudent thing to do is to go up to the tanks first and clear things?

I'm sure there's good footage of the whole event, given the number of people who claim to have been filming the area.
Burden of proofJon Billheimer
Aug 18, 2003 12:06 PM
I'd think that since the soldiers shot first and asked questions later that the burden of proof would be on them. This is one of the problems that occupation armies always have. They usually end up harassing and killing noncombatants which inevitably creates even more hostility toward them. I'll bet if you polled the average Iraqi he would have at best ambivalent, and probably outright hostile, attitudes about being "liberated" by the Americans.
that seems biasedDougSloan
Aug 18, 2003 12:21 PM
That seems a bit biased.

Speaking of polls, I think the appropriate question would be "Did you prefer Saddam's rule or the present circumstances?"

Presently, there are some terrorist actitivities and an occasional loss due to mistakes. Under Saddam, he and his regime terrorized and killed for fun and control. They raped and killed husband of the victims. They had zero freedom, unless freedom means lying low keeping your mouth shut as your wife is raped by one of the Boys.

Sure, I'd love to ask them to compare circumstances.

their answers may surprise you. nmrufus
Aug 18, 2003 12:49 PM
Aug 18, 2003 1:56 PM
these guys shoot first and ask questions laterrufus
Aug 18, 2003 12:13 PM
and you want them to head even closer to them? how many innocent iraqis have been killed because they were approaching a checkpoint?

you would think the first soldier they spoke to would have got on his radio and informed any incoming forces just what the situation was in the area, just to avoid accidents like this. this was completely avoidable.
Um, yeah, it's a war zone...TJeanloz
Aug 18, 2003 12:21 PM
It's not like these are the streets of Toronto. There are a lot of things "innocent bystanders" can do to demonstrate that they are unarmed civilians, and none of these include jumping out of a car and pointing something at a column of tanks. I think probably a wave, maybe a couple of hands in the air, is appropriate, until you have established communication with the soldiers you are approaching.

People seem to have the U.S. Army confused with the NYPD, and the streets of Baghdad for the mean streets of Davenport, Iowa. I've been in parts of the world where people are toting big guns, and in every one of those cases, you make damn sure that the guys with the guns know who you are and what you're doing, all the time, and you make no assumptions about what they know or what they will do.
I've fired a similar weapon.Spoiler
Aug 18, 2003 11:04 AM
Any soldier who can't tell the difference should be held responsible.
Maybe camermen should dress like deer hunters.MR_GRUMPY
Aug 18, 2003 7:24 AM
I feel sorry for the soldier that shot him, and I feel sorry for the cameraman's family. In wars, there is always going to be deaths from "friendly fire."
That wouldn't stop Iraqis from dressing similarly (nm)TJeanloz
Aug 18, 2003 7:49 AM
maybe they should use those little flying rc cameras nmDougSloan
Aug 18, 2003 8:20 AM
Journalists do not count as "friendlies" (nm)53T
Aug 18, 2003 9:55 AM