by John Hawkins | August 18, 2003 5:08 pm
Tragically, cameraman Mazen Dana was shot and killed by US troops in Iraq on Sunday. Apparently, they mistook his “camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher” which I’m sure is an easy enough mistake to make from a distance, especially given than, earlier in the day there was, “a mortar attack in which six prisoners were killed and about 60 wounded”. Now don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not implying the soldiers responsible shouldn’t be held accountable for their negligence, I’m just saying that I could see how it could happen.
But the response from some of Dana’s colleagues is simply ludicrous. You see they’re claiming that the cameraman was DELIBERATELY killed. Just look at some of these quotes, starting with one from Reporters Without Borders…
“Reporters Without Borders urged Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to conduct an “honest, rapid” investigation. The group also noted that there have been isolated cases in which soldiers in Iraq have been hostile to the news media.”
An “honest” investigation? As compared to what? A “dishonest” investigation? RWB also dances around the issue by referring to “soldiers in Iraq (who) have been hostile to the news media.” But just look at what the rest of Dana’s Reuters crew (+ a Frenchman) had to say…
“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.
Breitner said soldiers tried to resuscitate Dana but failed.
…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 was 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.”
Is it any surprise that our soldiers can’t get fair treatment from the press over there when the media seems to be filled with nutjobs who think our military wants to kill them?
Again, while I feel terrible for Dana, his friends, and his family, he had to know that he was doing dangerous work. Anytime you go into an area where US forces are fighting guerillas, who may be dressed like you, on the same day as an attack, while carrying a camera that could possibly be mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, you are putting your life at risk. If you don’t understand that (and apparently some of Dana’s friends & RWB don’t), then you’re better off staying stateside rather than going somewhere dangerous like Iraq.
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