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“Those in positions of authority in Iraq must not only say they are working for press freedom in that country,” the institute said. “They must also show that they mean it.”
From Associated Press, May 18, 2004
An international media watchdog accused the United States on Tuesday of violating press freedom in Iraq, saying Washington is setting a poor example for a future Iraqi government.
The International Press Institute, a network of reporters, editors and media executives, also called on the United States to protect reporters in Iraq.
“The state of press freedom in Iraq gives rise to grave concerns,” said a resolution passed by the group’s annual meeting in Warsaw. It cited alleged infringements of media freedom both by the Coalition Provisional Authority and by officials in Washington.
Dick Custin, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, said he could not comment on the institute’s accusations but stressed that the United States remains committed to press freedom.
“We certainly encourage freedom of expression and we encourage the journalists to let us know how they feel and express to the world how they feel,” Custin said. “One of the things we are working toward in Iraq is freedom of speech.”
The resolution condemned a U.S. decision to close the weekly newspaper of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. U.S. officials said the paper had incited violence against coalition troops.
“Bans of news media outlets are both unwise and counterproductive, no matter how inaccurate or unfair the authorities may deem their reporting or editorials to be,” the institute said.
The resolution also cited an appeal by U.S. authorities to the CBS television network to delay airing photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers acknowledged he made the request because the broadcast would have been “particularly inflammatory” when tensions in the city of Fallujah were at their height.
The telecast on “60 Minutes II” was delayed by two weeks, airing April 28.
Such actions by U.S. officials set “poor examples for the new Iraqi authorities on dealing with independent press outlets,” the resolution said.
“Those in positions of authority in Iraq must not only say they are working for press freedom in that country,” the institute said. “They must also show that they mean it.”
Several of the 14 news media employees killed this year in Iraq died in incidents involving fire by U.S. forces, the group noted.
The International Press Institute, based in Vienna, Austria, has more than 2,000 members in 115 countries. About 130 members attended the annual meeting.
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