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MEDIA WAR
JFO: Iraqi Journalists in US Custody in Diyala
Media Watchdog Disputes Reported US Denial of Detaining Media Workers
05/07/2008 8:30 PM ET
JFO logo.
JFO logo.
Two Iraqi journalists have been arrested by US forces in Diyala Province, according to a new statement by an Iraqi group that observes violations against journalists in Iraq. In the statement, released on Thursday in Iraq, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) writes that it it "refutes" remarks by an American spokesman who denied knowledge that media workers numbered among detainees arrested Wednesday in Diyala.

JFO's statement takes issue with remarks, reported earlier in Arabic, by Abd al-Latif Rayan, a spokesman for US forces, who denied Wednesday that journalists numbered among 21 arrested individuals during security American security operations in Diyala Province in remarks to Aswat al-Iraq.

The JFO writes that it has confirmed that two media workers were arrested by the US forces along with the other detainees in Diyala on Wednesday. JFO identifies the two as Muhammad Wahib al-'Azawi, a contributor for the British Broadcasting Company, whose Baghdad office said he is still in US custody, according to the JFO, and Adam Mahdi, a member of that organization, who works as a news photographer for the Associated Press. JFO cites the United League of Iraqi Media Workers in Diyala as confirming Mahdi's arrest by US forces.

Aswat al-Iraq reported earlier in Arabic on Wednesday that US forces had arrested four media workers in Diyala province, citing the head of the United League of Iraqi Media Workers in Ba'quba, Omar al-Dulaimi. JFO's statement only refers to two of these individuals.

Rayan, the US spokesman, in remarks to Aswat al-Iraq on Wednesday, denied that there was "anyone carrying documents proving that he is a journalist" among the Diyala detainees, adding that "two of the detainees claimed to be journalists, but after a review of their documents the media center did not find any document proving that any of them work as journalists."

The JFO writes that it rejects the claim that Iraqis can only be called journalists by registering with the Joint Press Center, saying instead that no agency has the authority to decide who is and is not an Iraqi journalist, suggesting that Iraqi journalists are to be defined solely as those who perform journalism work.

JFO also expresses its alarm that any party should attempt "to categorize journalists according to its will," claiming that the sole purpose of formal press identification should be to "facilitate the work of journalists" rather than to qualify individuals as journalists or not.

The JFO also demands that US forces release the two journalists immediately, "in accordance with international law and the Iraqi constitution."

Al-Dulaimi, of the United League of Iraqi Media Workers, told Aswat al-Iraq that the arrests had occurred in the Mu'alamin district west of Ba'quba, during a raid on the home of Husayn Rashid, a media college lecturer in which, according to Dulaimi, Rashid and three other media workers were arrested.

In his remarks to Aswat al-Iraq, al-Dulaimi named the three others as Wahib and Mahdi, the AP and BBC workers mentioned in the JFO statement, along with Diham al-'Ubaydi, identified as media official at Diyala University.

Aswat al-Iraq writes that the United League of Iraqi Media Workers, headquartered in Ba'quba, includes over 40 members who work for Iraqi and global media outlets in the Diyala area.

An MNF statement that apparently refers to the same arrests in Ba'quba reads as follows:

TIKRIT, Iraq – An operation for two known insurgent leaders resulted in over 20 Iraqi males being detained, May 7.

The operation was conducted in the Khatoon district of Baqubah during the early morning hours.

“The unit had gathered intelligence that indicated two high-level insurgent leaders were in the home,” said Maj. Mike Garcia, spokesperson for Coalition forces in Diyala.

“When they entered the home shortly after midnight, they found over 20 Iraqi adult males – awake – with several illegal weapons and a notebook containing plans for future attacks against Coalition forces in the home,” said Garcia.

Many of the men claimed to be students, local farmers or local media.

“We’ll identify these (individuals) through further questioning and if it is determined they are not involved in insurgent activity, they’ll be released,” said Garcia.

See here for all of IraqSlogger's coverage of issues related to journalists in Iraq.

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