Friday, September 30, 2005

Rumsfeld to address reporters' safety in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - A senior Republican lawmaker won a commitment on Thursday from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to address concerns about the increased detentions and accidental shootings by U.S. forces of reporters trying to cover the Iraq conflict. Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate armed services committee, raised the issue at a hearing with Rumsfeld and top U.S. generals after receiving letters from Reuters and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and a telephone call from Paul Steiger, CPJ chairman and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.

"I raised the question of the safety of the press in Iraq and their ability to carry out the very important function of reporting to the American people," Warner told reporters after the hearing. "I've discussed it with the secretary. He's going to take it under immediate consideration," he said.

In a letter to Warner earlier this week, Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger referred to "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by U.S. forces in Iraq."

He urged Warner to demand that Rumsfeld address and resolve these issues "in a way that best balances the legitimate security interests of the U.S. forces in Iraq and the equally legitimate rights of journalists in conflict zones under international law."

At least 66 journalists and media workers, most of them Iraqis, have been killed covering Iraq since March 2003.

At least seven Iraqi journalists were detained this year, with at least three documented detentions lasting more than 100 days while others spanned many weeksAt least four detainees remain in U.S. custody, including three Reuters employees and one from CBS News.

Additionally, the arrests sent the message to Iraq that the U.S. commitment to democracy and human rights was not sincere.