EBU protests against media restrictions in Iraq

April 5, 2003

On Tuesday April 2, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) protested against the restrictions introduced by the U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar on newsgathering in Southern Iraq.

“U.S. Central Command policy is now actively restricting independent newsgathering from Southern Iraq,” EBU Secretary General Jean Stock said in a statement. “Reporters and camera crews who put their lives at risk have been detained by American and British troops and returned to Kuwait.”

Stock said that this treatment appeared to be aimed in particular at organizations from countries that had chosen not to participate in the American-led coalition. "As a result journalists are now exposed to a much greater risk and the coalition policy targets the quality of their reporting,” he said.

The EBU welcomed the initial decision by U.S. Central Command to allow journalists to “embed” with military units and saw that move as an important contribution to newsgathering about the conflict. On the other hand, the EBU noted that this allowed only a small number of European broadcasters to report directly on the conflict. Others had to report from the sidelines, mainly from Kuwait City.

These broadcasters were therefore limited to either relying on third party news sources or to sending their crews as so-called “unilaterals” into Iraq. Those unilaterals were now being turned away by British and American troops and forcibly returned to Kuwait, Mr Stock said. As a result camera crews had to work almost clandestinely and faced a much higher risk in the area.

“We have independent information that broadcasters can work safely in many areas, so we do not understand why the military is putting so many obstacles in the path of journalists,” head of news Tony Naets said, “The truly unilateral broadcaster is prevented from coming anywhere near the news.”

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