Saturday, October 14, 2006

Reporter murdered by US forces

A British coroner has recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on Independent Television News (ITN) reporter Terry Lloyd, who was shot dead by US forces in southern Iraq in March 2003. His interpreter died and his cameraman is missing.

The inquest heard how Lloyd was killed while lying in a makeshift ambulance, having already been hurt in American-Iraqi crossfire.

"Terry was shot in the shoulder and had been lying in the sand," an Iraqi driver recounted. "He managed to walk to the car but was too weak to get in without help." The witness also said he had seen Lloyd's press pass and described a white Kuwaiti pass clipped on a yellow short-sleeved shirt. The witness said Mr Lloyd was shot in the head by US troops while the vehicle was leaving the scene.
The coroner is to ask the attorney general to consider pressing charges. Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he would also be writing to the director of public prosecutions asking for him to investigate the possibility of bringing charges. Lloyd's Lebanese interpreter, Hussein Osman, was also killed and French cameraman Fred Nerac is still officially classed as missing, presumed dead. Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier was the ITN crew's only survivor.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said Lloyd's killing was a "war crime", a charge repeated by the reporter's widow, Lyn, in a statement: "This was a very serious war crime, how else can firing on a vehicle in these circumstances be interpreted?" His daughter Chelsey Lloyd said: "The killing of my father would seem to amount to murder which is deeply shocking."

Lloyd and his three colleagues were caught up in a firefight between US and Iraqi forces near the Shatt Al Basra Bridge on 22 March 2003. The coroner said it was his view the American tanks had been first to open fire on the ITN crew's two vehicles. He added Mr Lloyd would probably have survived the first bullet wound he received, but was killed as he travelled away in a makeshift ambulance.Mr Walker said it "presented no threat to American forces" since it was a civilian minibus and was facing away from the US tanks.

"If the vehicle was perceived as a threat, it would have been fired on before it did a U-turn. This would have resulted in damage to the front of the vehicle."I have no doubt it was the fact that the vehicle stopped to pick up survivors that prompted the Americans to fire on that vehicle."

Born in Derby, the son of a Welsh-born policeman, Terry Lloyd had gained a reputation as a tough, intrepid journalist determined to go right into the world's troublespots and report what he saw first-hand. Fifteen years ago, he was the first TV reporter to go into the market town of Halabja in north-east Iraq to see the results of Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish people there. At the time some British and US officials denied knowing about the crime, though much later their governments and media would repeatedly invoke it to justify war on their former ally.

In January 1993, Lloyd was the only British TV reporter on the US carrier Kittyhawk, as she launched planes against Iraq, and brought exclusive coverage of the aircraft taking off and the Iraqi targets being hit. The following March he reported on the discovery of mass graves at Ovcara near Vukovar - the remains of hundreds of Croats massacred by the Yugoslav army and its accompanying killers.

In July 1997, Lloyd was in Cambodia reporting on fighting there. But it was for reportting from inside Kosova, following a mountain refugee route through Montenegro with ITN cameraman Mike Inglish, that he won an award.

Lloyd was reporting from Iraq under his own steam, rather than being "embedded" with US or British forces. A former ITN chief executive Stewart Purvis told the inquest in Oxford that though ITN kept the Army informed of its journalists' movements, the Army would not tell them anything in return. "The military did not wish to take any responsibility for [journalists' operating independently of UK forces] to such an extent that in a sense they wouldn't even recognise their existence".

ITN's editor in chief, David Mannion said they fully supported the Lloyd family's desire to "bring those responsible for Terry's death to account before a court of law".He added: "I would also like to say something that I know Terry would have wished me to say."Independent, unilateral reporting, free from official strictures, is crucial; not simply to us as journalists but to the role we play in a free and democratic society."



At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anna said...

Particularly vile because the US won't prosecute. And Blair won't say anything. He was "prepared to pay the blood price", only he's not the one picking up the bill. I hope the NUJ and ITN keep up the pressure.


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