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Old 04-02-2003, 08:38 AM   #1
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Foreign Reporters and US Troops

This appeared on the Democract Now website.

U.S. military detains, beats and threatens to kill four foreign journalists in Iraq. A Democracy Now! interview with Israeli reporter Dan Scemama

DEMOCRACY NOW! APRIL 1, 2003

Amy Goodman: The international press watch group Reporters Without Borders has accused the US and British coalition forces in Iraq of displaying contempt for journalists covering the conflict who are not embedded with troops. The criticism comes after a group of four “unilateral or roving reporters revealed how they were arrested by US military police as they slept near a US unit a hundred miles south of Baghdad and were held overnight. They described their ordeal as the worst 48 hours of their lives. The four journalists—Israeli journalist Dan Scemama, Boaz Bismuth, and Portuguese Luis Castro and Victor Silva, entered Iraq in a jeep and followed a US convoy though they were not officially attached to the troops. US military police seized the journalists outside their base, detained them even though they were carrying international press cards. The group claimed they were mistreated and denied contact with their families. We’re joined now by Dan Scemama in Israel. Welcome to Democracy Now!

Dan Scemama, Israel Channel One correspondent: Hi, good afternoon.

Amy Goodman: It’s good to have you with us. Can you describe exactly what happened.

Dan Scemama: Yes, we went into Iraq to report about the war. We went on a jeep that we had that we rented. We went with four guys. We all had credentials that we got from the American army. On the credential it was written “unilateral” and it was not written “embedded”. We just went in and we saw the British crews fighting, we saw the American crews—soldiers fighting.

We spent our nights with the American and the British soldiers, each time in another camp, in another place where they were parked. We were with them. We got to a place which was 120 kilometers south—kilometers which I think is seventy, maybe, miles south of Baghdad and there we met a group of, of the army of soldiers, and there was there also Ted Koppel was there with uniforms, with a big helmet on his head. And Ted Koppel looked at me and said to me, “You’re crazy, you don’t have a gas mask. Are you crazy? Because they’re going to use chemical weapons.” And I did not recognize Ted Koppel of course. Then I found out that it was him. Then we are asked by the army there to try and get gas masks, because if not, it’s very dangerous for our lives.

So we went south a little bit. We met another American troop, a chemical officer we met. We asked him for a gas mask and he gave it to us as a gift, which, what I’m trying to tell you is, we met a lot of American soldiers, and a lot of beautiful people that helped us. That understood what we were doing there, that a lot of times were trying to help us as much as they could. Until we got to this one group of soldiers in which the head of them was a guy that called himself—he did not call himself—we succeeded to find out his name because he did not want to identify himself. And his name was First Lieutenant Scholl which I will never forget his name. And him, with his soldiers have decided that we are very dangerous spies for Iraq. They decided that the CD player that we had is an electronic device that we used to tell the Iraqis where the American soldiers are. They took away our cameras. They took away our ID cards. They took away our money. They took our phones. They put their guns towards us. They forced us to lie down on the floor. To take our shirts up to make sure we didn’t have any explosives on our bodies. They checked us—our bodies—they checked our cars—I’m afraid I’m too long so maybe you have another question and then I will continue.

Amy Goodman: Was one of the Portuguese reporters beaten up?

Dan Scemama: Yes. After we were arrested at six o’ clock in the morning by these guys, and at about 11:30 I think it was, some five and a half hours after we were arrested, he kind of lost his patience, the Portuguese guy, and they put us in our jeep, they closed us inside the jeep and they said we are not allowed to get out of the jeep and we are supposed to stay there. And uh, so the Portuguese guy got out of the jeep, approached the army—the camp and said “Please, please, I am begging you, I have a wife and children. Let me just make a call, a telephone call to tell them that we are safe, that we are with you, the Americans and not with the Iraqis. They might think at home that we are killed by Iraqis. Please just let us tell them that.” And they said to him, “Go immediately to your car.” And he said, “Please I am begging you.” Five soldiers went out of the camp, jumped on him and started to beat him and to kick him. We ran to his direction. They all put bullets inside the cannons of their guns, and they said if we move forward they shoot at us. We were standing like stupid guys. We saw our friend lying on the ground crying, hurting. They tied his hand behind his back. They took him into the camp. And after half-an-hour, they let him go, and came back to us all crying. And then came this Lieutenant Scholl. And he told us, “Don’t mess with my soldiers. Don’t mess with them because they are trained like dogs to kill. And they will kill you if you try again.”

Amy Goodman: Well, Dan Scemama, how long were you held by the US forces?

Dan Scemama: We were there in our jeep for thirty-six hours outside the camp. They asked us if we need anything. They came politely, very nice, Lieutenant Scholl, he came again. “Do you need anything?” And we said “Yes, if you can give us a little food.” And he said, “I don’t have enough food for my soldiers. I will not give you food.” After about an hour, we saw a soldier going with water—a bottle of water—in our direction. And we said “Look! Something human is happening here. Somebody is coming to us with water!” And then we saw that he gave the water to a dog that was there, not to us!

Amy Goodman: Well—

Dan Scemama: And they kept us thirty-six hours and after thirty-six hours they put us on a helicopter and sent us to Kuwait. And we thought, okay, now we are safe. And in the military camp—American military camp in Kuwait, they hold us in a tent, standing up for six hours. An officer was standing next to us, I don’t remember his name. One of the sergeants who was there said, “Do you want a cup of coffee?” And the officer who was there shouted at them “Don’t give them anything! Don’t tell them anything. Don’t talk to them, don’t be nice to them!” and he said to us, “Don’t move and don’t talk to each other. “ This was already after 40-something hours that we were there. And suddenly at six o’ clock in the morning, that was exactly 48 hours from the moment we were caught, or everything started, they said “Guys, everything is finished, everything is finished, what hotel are you staying in Kuwait City, we’ll take you to your hotel.” Listen what we did, we asked “Can we use our mobile phones? Our satellite phones?” And they said “Yes.” And we all took the satellite phones that we had and we called home.

We all four of us started to cry and the Sergeant that six hours before wanted to give us a cup of coffee, came to us, a Sergeant Major of the American army and he started to hug us, he was crying. And he said, “Believe me, it’s not all the American army, excuse me I love you, I am with you, excuse us, please and please and please. This all was finished. They took me to my hotel. And when I arrived in my hotel, five minutes later, I had time to take a shower, I wanted to eat something, because I did not eat for a long time. And five minutes after I finished my shower, people knocked on my door in my hotel. And it was Kuwaiti secret police. And they told me for your own safety, we have to show you out of Kuwait immediately. And they took me to the airport and threw me out of Kuwait. I’m sure the Americans did that.

Amy Goodman: Well, Dan Scemama, I want to thank you for recounting what happened to you and your colleagues, another Israeli journalist and two Portuguese journalists.
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Old 04-02-2003, 12:35 PM   #2
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Ok, getting beaten up is bad. but are these guys complete idiots? Just following around an army battallion during a war?? Of course they are going to be treated as a potential risk and or information gatherer for the other side. They definitely didn't deserve to be beaten up, but they did deserve to be detained, questioned, and sent out of there.

p.s. - Democracy Now is one of the worst propaganda rags out there IMO.
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Old 04-02-2003, 01:49 PM   #3
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This report sounds horrible. I wonder if there was an imbedded reporter in the area that could confirm the story.
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Old 04-02-2003, 02:47 PM   #4
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I haven't found anything in US news, but this is from Israeli National news.
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=41201

Two Israeli Journalists Held by American Forces
Dan Semamah and Boaz Bismut, two Israeli journalists covering the war in Iraq, were held by American forces last week on suspicion of spying. After being kept in a jeep for a day and a half, they were transferred to Kuwait late Thursday night and finally released on Friday. Semamah later said, "We were held under very difficult conditions - something that could be considered close to downright abuse. I would not have been surprised if they had shot us."

A Portugese journalist held with them was hit by the Americans, Semamah recounted.

The Americans arrested the four while they were parked not far from a convoy of U.S. armored vehicles; the sandstorm conditions prevented both the Americans and the journalists from advancing. At first, some Americans were friendly and advised them to stay in place; a few hours later, other troops arrested them when they found that the journalists did not have the required papers and permits.

Semamah, representing Israel TV's Channel One, and Bismut, of Yediot Acharonot, said afterwards that their phones and other personal items were taken from them. "The Americans don't want independent reporters here," Bismut said. "They want only those who are 'imbedded' into the army units, so that no one will hear the criticism that many soldiers have against the war."

Semamah said that the above explains why the Americans "treated us so forcefully, cruelly, and inappropriately… They accused us of being terrorists, spies, Iraqi intelligence." Bismut said, "The worst part was not the fear, but the humiliation... It was difficult; we knew that our families were worried and that no one knew where we were."

Semamah said that some American soldiers did not treat their captured Iraqi soldiers particularly well either. "On our way to the helicopter that took us to Kuwait," he told Israel Radio, "we saw some 150 captured Iraqis who were humiliated by American female soldiers. They laughed and had fun when they allowed them [the Iraqis] to go to the side to answer nature's call, and did not stop taking pictures…"

A Pentagon spokesman said that the four endangered the American troops: "The forces did not know who these people were, and so they were removed from Iraq to Kuwait." He said that the claims of "inappropriate behavior" on the part of the Americans are being investigated.
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Old 04-02-2003, 02:50 PM   #5
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womanfish:

Isn't this the more classical approach of war-journalsim? not being "embedded" (and by this loosing your discance -> being less objective)?
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Old 04-02-2003, 02:54 PM   #6
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I also thought this is how war coverage was done in the past. In Vietnam the journalists sort of followed the troops around and as a result we received horrific but accurate pictures back home.
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Old 04-02-2003, 03:41 PM   #7
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In Vietnam, I believe reporters still had to ask about going to somewhere or covering something. You have to let people know who and where you are or you get shot by American troops.

These guys didn't seem to have the right paperwork so of course they were questioned. Terrorists and pro-Saddam troops wouldn't have the right paperwork either. Four soldiers were killed at a checkpoint by someone in normal clothes. Iraqi snipers are dressed in normal clothes. How do you want soldiers to treat people that, by all appearances, are Iraqi? If an Iraqi soldier pretending to be a journalist did that, they would get the same treatment.

Stupid journalists will not be treated well. This is why Geraldo got kicked out, this is why Peter Arnett was fired. Don't be stupid and do your job.
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Old 04-03-2003, 05:41 AM   #8
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As a 2nd interesting source:

From German Tagesschau (no1 TV news)

Protest against handicap of independent journalists

Meanwhile the European broadcast union protested against the ongoing substantial handicaps for independent journalists in the south Iraq by the US central command in Doha.
In particular reporters and camera teams from countries, which did not support the American-British war of aggression, are affected by it., EBU Secretary-General Jean Stock said.

"reporters and camera teams, who risked their life, were arrested by British and American troops and sent back to Kuwait." The journalists would have to work secretly and thereby partially their life on the play would set.

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Old 04-03-2003, 06:44 AM   #9
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Point is, they were moved for their own safety. If they were not moved and something happened to them, I am sure there would be an "unbiased" article posted saying how we intentionally killed reporterd that were not embedded.
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Old 04-03-2003, 08:29 AM   #10
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I read about this yesterday in a related story.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/...p?story=392439

MoD tactics 'are putting unembedded journalists' lives at risk'
By Andrew Buncombe in Basra and Eric Silver
31 March 2003


British journalists covering the war in Iraq said yesterday their lives were being put at risk because the Ministry of Defence has decided to hinder correspondents who are not attached to its units.

Not only have officials decided that journalists not in their official pool ought not to receive assistance but, in some cases, reporters who have made their own way into the country are being forced to sleep in their vehicles in unsafe streets rather than being allowed to park in army bases, air strips and ports that the invading forces have seized.

"My job is to make your lives as difficult as possible. You will get no help whatsoever," a senior army spokesman allegedly told one group of journalists. Another senior officer involved in organising facilities for the press said he wanted Kuwaiti authorities to arrest reporters seeking to enter Iraq and have them deported.

Two Israeli and two Portuguese journalists were detained by US and British soldiers 100 miles south of Baghdad at gunpoint, deprived of food for 48 hours, then expelled from Iraq at the weekend. One of them, Dan Semama, a correspondent with Israel's Channel 1 television, said guards at the entrance to a US army camp accused the four, who were not accredited to coalition forces, of spying.

Mr Semama said that when one of the Portuguese begged to be allowed to tell his wife and children that he was still alive, "five gorillas jumped on the reporter, who is small and thin and gentle. They knocked him to the ground, kicked him, stepped on him, tied him up and threw him into the camp. He came back half an hour later. He was crying like a child."

The four had entered Iraq in a rented Jeep and followed a US convoy, reporting home by satellite telephone. At the gate to their base, guards ordered them out of the Jeep and shouted at them to put their hands up. When the two Israelis, who have dual nationality, showed their French passports, it only made things worse. France is not the American army's flavour of the month.

"There was one captain," Mr Semama said, "who wanted us to lie on the ground with our faces in the sand and dust. 'Stick your head in the sand and don't look," he shouted at us. I told him I was 55 years old. He replied, 'Do it, or I'll shoot you'."

The next day, the four were flown under escort to Kuwait by helicopter. Again, US troops yelled that they were spies. The nightmare only ended when a military police sergeant confirmed that they were indeed journalists. He apologised "in the name of the United States" and delivered them to a hotel.

The British Army has long enjoyed a reputation for having an excellent relationship with the media, providing assistance and often vital information on conditions in the field. While individual officers in combat zones in southern Iraq have continued this tradition, they admit they are under orders to deny assistance to non-pool or "unilateral" journalists.

The problem has partly been created by the so-called embedding system under which journalists have been attached to units, providing in some cases unprecedented access to frontline operations. It is also clear that since the death of the ITV journalist Terry Lloyd, who was travelling independently, the authorities have been keen to avoid similar incidents.

The Mail on Sunday journalist Barbara Jones, who rescued Mr Lloyd's injured team-member Daniel Demoustier, has said: "We get the strong feeling the unilateralists are the untouchables, a bloody nuisance."

A group of Australian journalists travelling independently were told that the military wanted to rounded them up and take their visas from them.

It seems that Washington and London are not keen for their actions to be scrutinised by journalists outside their control and whose reports are not subject to censorship by "media minders". The behaviour of officers is, according to a number of senior correspondents, putting lives at risk.

Last night, in Umm Qasr – the border town where aid distribution has been postponed because of security problems – Royal Marines refused to allow The Independent and other British newspapers entry to a largely empty hotel compound which troops were holding. Some "embedded" journalists have also attacked "unilaterals" for their reports which have been critical of the soldiers.
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Old 04-05-2003, 04:36 PM   #11
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The whole strory of the treatment of war-critic journalists was confirmed by a german newspaper on thursday
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Old 04-05-2003, 09:33 PM   #12
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It's all over the web. Other nation journalists not inbedded are geting the same treatment. I have to watch middle-eastern TV to get a balanced view. Israeli TV today denounced the US because of Powell's speech regarding a Palestinian state.
We're just making friends and impressing people all over the place.
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Old 04-06-2003, 05:22 PM   #13
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Normal

I saw Dan Scemama telling the same story on tv last Thursday.

I also heard about a French journalist reporting for Le Monde being arrested and put on a plane back home, for no apparent reason.
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