May
26
2009

Press Freedom 'Lip Service' vs. 'de Facto U.S. Policy'

Reporting that "the Obama administration has recently paid a lot of lip service to freedom of the press, particularly around the case of Iranian-American journalist Roxanna Saberi, who was released May 11 from an Iranian prison," Jeremy Scahill asks (Rebel Reports, 5/26/09) the simple question, "If Iran Freed Roxanna Saberi, Why Won't the U.S. Release Journalist Ibrahim Jassam?"

Part of the answer might lie in a media environment heeding former Col. Ralph Peters' recent "essay for a leading neocon group calling for future U.S. military attacks on media outlets and journalists" along with "censorship" and "news blackouts."

Of course, Scahill is savvy enough to point out that "what Col. Peters is advocating is not new"–"It is already a de facto U.S. policy to target journalists":

The U.S. has consistently attacked journalists and media organizations in modern wars. In the 1999 US-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, General Wesley Clark, then the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, ordered an airstrike on Radio Television Serbia, killing 16 media workers, including make-up artists and technical staff, an action Amnesty International labeled a 'war crime.' Richard Holbrooke, who is currently Obama's point man on Afghanistan and Pakistan, praised that bombing at the time.

The U.S. bombed Al Jazeera in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, attacked it multiple times in the 2003 Iraq invasion, and killed Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayoub. On April 8, 2003, a U.S. Abrams tank fired at the Palestine Hotel, home and office to more than 100 unembedded international journalists operating in Baghdad at the time. The shell smashed into the fifteenth-floor Reuters office, killing two cameramen, Reuters' Taras Protsyuk and José Couso of Spain's Telecinco….

Last week, a Spanish judge reinstated charges against three U.S. soldiers in Couso's killing, citing new evidence, including eyewitness testimony contradicting official U.S. claims that soldiers were responding to enemy fire from the hotel. One year ago, former Army Sergeant Adrienne Kinne told Democracy Now! she saw the Palestine Hotel on a military target list and said she frequently intercepted calls from journalists staying there.

All of which makes it less than surprising that, as Scahill tells us, "the U.S. military continues to hold journalists as prisoners without charges or rights in…Iraq. Ibrahim Jassam, a cameraman and photographer for Reuters has been a U.S. prisoner in Iraq since last September despite an Iraqi court's order last year that he be freed." See the FAIR Press Release: "Is Killing Part of Pentagon Press Policy?" (4/10/03)