Unexpectedly Intriguing!
February 2, 2005
Update: Thank you, Hugh Hewitt readers for the "Hughvalanche!"

The latest storm sweeping the blogosphere centers on CNN's Eason Jordan's claims that the U.S. military is targeting members of the media for assassination:

During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

Rony Abovitz on January 28, 2005

Checking the Claims

Checking Eason Jordan's claims is fairly easy. The World Association of Newspapers maintains a list of media employees killed in the course of performing their jobs. The following table summarizes WAN's data related to media employee deaths in 2003 and 2004, and isolates those deaths occuring in Iraq:

WAN Summary of Media Employees Killed
Year Total In Iraq
2003 53 15
2004 71 23

Attributing Responsibility

The following summary of media employee deaths in Iraq that may be attributed to the U.S. military is excerpted from WAN's reports (linked in the above table) and has been edited for clarity. Other deaths reported by WAN may be classified as being accidental or the result of insurgent/terrorist activities.

Mazen al-Tumeizi, September 12, 2004

Mazen al-Tumeizi, a reporter for Al-Arabiya television was killed in Baghdad on 12 September after a U.S. helicopter reportedly fired missiles and machine guns to destroy a disabled American vehicle. Video aired by al-Arabiya showed al-Tumeizi was preparing a report nearby when an explosion behind him caused him to double over and scream, "I'm dying, I'm dying." According to reports, fighting broke out on Haifa Street in the centre of Baghdad around dawn, when a U.S. armoured vehicle caught fire and its four crew members were evacuated. As a crowd gathered, one or more U.S. helicopters opened fire.

Mahmoud Hamid Abbas, August 15, 2004

Mahmoud Hamid Abbas, an Iraqi cameraman working for the German television station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) was killed on 15 August in Fallujah. The television station reported that Abbas had called earlier in the day to say he had filmed the bombardment of a house in Fallujah by U.S. forces and that he would be returning to Baghdad. Abbas reportedly called the station back a half hour later to say an attack was under way, before the phone line went dead. ZDF reportedly learned of his death the next day after Abbas' body was brought to a Fallujah mosque. The details surrounding the cameraman's death remain unclear.

Assad Kadhem, April 19, 2004

Assad Kadhem was killed by US military fire on 19 April while filming an attack on a US base in the central Iraqi city of Samara, north of Baghdad. The journalist, an Iraqi national, worked for the coalition-funded television channel Al-Iraqiya TV. His driver was also killed in the assault. The precise circumstances of the incident are unclear.

Burhan Mohamed Mazhour, March 26, 2004

Burhan Mohamed Mazhour was killed in the city of Fallujah on 26 March, following a firefight that reportedly occurred as US Marines were conducting house-to-house searches in the city. Mazhour, a freelancer for the American television station ABC, was standing among a group of working journalists when U.S. troops reportedly fired in their direction. Mazhour was struck in the head by a single bullet and later died in a hospital.

Ali al-Khatib, March 19, 2004

Ali al-Khatib died in hospital on 19 March from injuries sustained after being shot near a US military checkpoint in Baghdad the previous day. The reporter, who worked with the United Arab Emirates-based news channel Al-Arabiyya, was part of a four-man news team that had gone that evening to cover the aftermath of a rocket attack against the Burj al-Hayat Hotel. The incident reportedly occurred after a car accidentally crashed into a barrier near the checkpoint. According to a member of the tv team, shots were fired from the direction of the US troops.

Ali Abdel Aziz, March 18, 2004

Ali Abdel Aziz was shot near a US military checkpoint in Baghdad on 18 March. The cameraman, who worked for the United Arab Emirates-based news channel Al-Arabiyya, was part of a four-man news team that had gone that evening to cover the aftermath of a rocket attack on the Burj al-Hayat Hotel. The incident reportedly occurred after a car accidentally crashed into a barrier near the checkpoint. According to a member of the tv team, shots were fired from the direction of the US troops.

Mazen Dana, August 17, 2003

The 32 year-old Reuters television cameraman was killed by machine gun fire from a U.S tank while filming outside an Iraqi prison. According to Dana's soundman, the Palestinian cameraman had asked for and received permission from U.S. troops in the area to film the prison, located in Abou Ghraib, outside Baghdad. U.S. officials have said that the troops mistook the journalist's camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso, April 8, 2003

Taras Protsyuk, a Reuters cameraman, and Jose Couso, a Telecinco cameraman, died after the hotel where they were staying was hit by a US tank shell. The shell hit the 15th floor of the Palestine hotel which lodges many foreign journalists in Baghdad. Both Mr Protsyuk, of the Ukraine, and Mr Couso, of Spain, died in hospital. There are conflicting reports about the nature of the shelling. US military officials claim one of their tanks had fired on the hotel in response to incoming sniper and rocket fire. Other journalists in the building at the time of the shelling, have reportedly claimed to have heard no fire coming from the hotel. Three other media workers sustained non-fatal wounds in the incident.

Tareq Ayoub, April 8, 2003

Al-Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayoub died when the al-Jazeera offices were hit by two American-fired missiles. A cameraman for the television station was also injured by the blast, which virtually decimated the station's offices. Mr. Ayoub, a Jordanian national, was the station's permanent correspondent in Amman, and was sent to Baghdad when the war broke out. The US military said the bombing was a mistake. Al Jazeera had reportedly provided explicit details of the location of the office to the Pentagon, and had also clearly demarcated the building by hanging a large banner outside with the word "TV" inscribed on it. Abu Dhabi television reported its Baghdad bureau as having also been hit by US bombing.

Analyzing 11 Deaths in 9 Incidents

In analyzing the reported circumstances above, the only clear patterns that appear in the deaths of the media employees listed are that they died while the U.S. military was either actively prosecuting the war against Saddam Hussein's regime, responding to crisis events caused by insurgent/terrorist activity, or were outright in error. There is no legitimate basis for claims that media employees have been targeted for assassination by the U.S. military.

CNN's Fallen Employees

Of special note in this discussion are CNN's fallen employees, translator/producer Duraid Isa Mohammed and driver Yasser Khatab, who were killed in a January 27, 2004 incident. WAN notes:

Duraid Isa Mohammed was killed in an ambush outside of Baghdad on 27 January, when the convoy with which he was travelling came under fire by unidentified assailants. The Iraqi producer, who was working for CNN at the time of his death, was heading toward the capital when a vehicle reportedly approached the two-car convoy from behind, and a single gunman opened fire.

Considering the risks that journalists covering war zones face, it is only all the more repulsive that Eason Jordan would sully their profession with his unfounded utterances. Honest journalists deserve better, and CNN's employees especially deserve new leadership who will respect the mission of journalists in reporting the world that is. Until Eason Jordan is no longer employed by CNN, CNN's credibility must be accounted among its fallen.

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