Reuters: U.S. Troops Killing and Detaining Journalists

Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger yesterday charged that U.S. troops in Iraq are intentionally targeting journalists in Iraq, including illegal detentions and murder.

Reuters says U.S. troops obstruct reporting of Iraq (Reuters)

The conduct of U.S. troops in Iraq, including increasing detention and accidental shootings of journalists, is preventing full coverage of the war reaching the American public, Reuters said on Wednesday.In a letter to Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reuters said U.S. forces were limiting the ability of independent journalists to operate. The letter from Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger called on Warner to raise widespread media concerns about the conduct of U.S. troops with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is due to testify to the committee on Thursday.

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 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 in the Iraq conflict since March 2003.

U.S. forces acknowledge killing three Reuters journalists, most recently soundman Waleed Khaled who was shot by American soldiers on Aug. 28 while on assignment in Baghdad. But the military say the soldiers were justified in opening fire. Reuters believes a fourth journalist working for the agency, who died in Ramadi last year, was killed by a U.S. sniper. “The worsening situation for professional journalists in Iraq directly limits journalists’ abilities to do their jobs and, more importantly, creates a serious chilling effect on the media overall,” Schlesinger wrote.


At least four journalists working for international media are currently being held without charge or legal representation in Iraq. They include two cameramen working for Reuters and a freelance reporter who sometimes works for the agency. A cameraman working for the U.S. network CBS has been detained since April despite an Iraqi court saying his case does not justify prosecution. Iraq’s justice minister has criticised the system of military detentions without charge.

Has Reuters hired Eason Jordan?

Strangely, the story provides little basis for the charges nor does it include the DoD’s response to these rather serious allegations, aside from their view that the incidents are “justified.” Juan Cole thinks Reuters is underselling the problem:

(It is worse. Reuters typically lists 5 or 6 deadline “security incidents” in its daily roundup, but we know that there are more like 60 or 70, about which the US military knows but of which the rest of us are kept in the dark).

No source is cited for this, however. It strikes me as rather contradictory–the military is doing something and keeping it a secret but we nonetheless know?–but it’s possible that there has been a continuing dialogue on his site that I’ve missed. Searchability of his site is limited to a Google bar. Typing “security incidents” reveals several results but most are false positives.

At any rate, one hopes the Pentagon will issue a statement pronto and that the Senate will indeed look into the matter. If it’s true, then serious shake-up is needed in the military hierarchy. If, as I’m inclined to believe, it’s not, then the record needs to be cleared.

both links via Memeorandum

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, well then….

    Maybe the soldiers have seen journalists travel with insurgents, accompany insurgents on attack missions, support the insurgents with their reporting….

    Well then, they must be insurgents.

  2. Tbird1107 says:

    Another consideration: What better cover for an insurgent than to be a journalist? More protection than the average Iragi gets, and access to more areas. Remember the AP award winning photo of the execution of election workers by the photographer who “just happened to be there”?

  3. Herb says:

    We all have watched some of these so called journalist push, shove and bully their way into situations that would be dangerous under any circumstances. Some of these guys think that a press pass is a ticket to everlasting life and go any where and do anything they want. They more often than not put themselves into dangerous positions just to get a story or a headline.

    I don’t feel a bit sorry if they get themselves thrown in jail or killed, They bring it on themselves. And to top it off, most of their “reporting”? is nothing more than lies and distortion to improve their self righteous, self serving, and selfish image with other media sources that are just as bad.

  4. Fersboo says:

    Boohoohoo! Poor journalists.

    TIP to asshat journalists:
    If the military wanted you dead, there would be a significant amount of dead, not the few cases reported.

  5. Wayne says:

    The only good Journalist is a dead Journalist.

    Sorry but I couldn’t resist. MSM Journalists are the lowest profession as it stands now that I know of. I had such great respect for them once upon a time.

  6. Sgt Fluffy says:

    I wonder which Hotel they have been targeting?

  7. Melissa Shutta says:

    The comments are scarier than the article. Journalists are being intimidated and even murdered by the US military. As many journalists have been killed in 3 years in Iraq as in the entire Vietnam war. The practice of imprisoning people without charges or allowing them access to the outside world should worry every one. Where did the Bill of Rights go? What is the matter with American citizens that they are so eager to give up all their hard earned freedoms for nothing. NOTHING

  8. Anonymous says:

    Those commentors who wish eyewitnesses and truthtellers dead, obviously are cut of the same cloth as the corporate
    bloodletters who have been running the U.S. into a ditch.
    Since you like killing and imprisoning anyone who disagrees with abuse of power, you belong not in the United States
    but in those regimes where this kind of sociopathy is widely regarded as patriotic.

  9. marquer says:

    Remember the AP award winning photo of the execution of election workers by the photographer who “just happened to be there”?

    I sure do remember that.

    And I remember a whole parade of Bush supporters saying that the photographer “obviously” had to have been working with the insurgents, since he was so up close and personal with the executions.

    Typical of the breed would be John Hinderaker of PowerLine (“TIME Magazine Blog Of The Year!”), who said, quote, “The photographer was obviously within a few yards of the scene of the murder…”


    AP promptly produced documentation and witnesses who indicated that the photographer had been three hundred meters away, and using — wait for it — a telephoto lens.

    Not that professional photographers would ever be carrying such a rare and exclusive item in the normal course of their employment, or anything.

    There’s no polite way to say this, so I’ll just say it impolitely. You’re an idiot, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.