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Let Journalists Do Their Job in Iraq

On Aug. 17, Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana was fatally shot by American troops. Dana and a group of journalists had been given permission by U.S. troops guarding the prison where Saddam Hussein once kept his enemies to film the compound from a nearby bridge. The journalists had finished their work on the bridge, and were driving away when they saw American tanks coming towards them. Dana stepped out of his car to film the troops when the tanks fired on him. According to his driver, he fell to the ground and was dead within a few minutes. The soldiers claim that the camera Dana was carrying strongly resembled a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

The U.S. military has acknowledged the death as a tragedy and has pledged to investigate the incident. The world’s media outfits are still outraged at what they see as the careless and unnecessary use of weapons in civilian situations, especially when their colleagues are involved.

Much like scientists who attempt to study their subjects without altering them, journalists attempt to distance themselves from the events in order to prevent an unbiased, unchanged perspective for their audience. Just as it was a tragedy that healthcare workers have died of SARS as they cared for their patients and studied the disease, the death of a war reporter at the hands of soldiers should be considered equally tragic.

The U.S. military should not take the complaints of the press about this death lightly. Although the enemy often uses guerrilla tactics to attack our troops, the military needs to take a strong look at how its troops react to supposed civilian threats. Members and the audience of the press alike should demand that journalists be allowed to work without fear of ambush from soldiers. If they can not, we should mourn not only for the loss of their lives, but also for the loss of truth and knowledge.