Jonathan Finer's June 6 front-page story, "Press in Iraq Gains Rights but No Refuge; 85 Workers Killed in 2 Years," revealed the brutal conditions in which journalism is practiced in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Most of the 85 journalists and media staffers who have died have been killed by terrorists. But 14 have been killed by U.S. soldiers since the invasion in March 2003. None of these deaths has, to date, been satisfactorily explained by the U.S. military.

On April 8 the journalists of Iraq, joined by journalists around the world, protested to U.S. authorities about the handling of these incidents. Journalists in the United States, led by the Newspaper Guild-CWA and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, called on President Bush to ensure that all media deaths are properly investigated.

The day of the protest was the second anniversary of the attack by U.S. forces on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad in which two journalists were killed. A few hours earlier, a reporter for al-Jazeera television died when U.S. planes attacked the station's Baghdad headquarters. In other incidents in Baghdad, questions remain.

The reports on the killings -- and in some cases, no reports have been filed -- follow the same pattern: secrecy about the detail and nature of the report, a failure to examine all the evidence, insensitive shrugs of regret and exoneration of responsibility of U.S. personnel at all levels of command. The Pentagon's November report on the attack on the Palestine Hotel, for example, is flawed and unconvincing.

It is inappropriate for the military to investigate itself without any independent or judicial review. Perhaps most worrying, the absence of credible inquiry leads to speculation about the targeting of journalists by U.S. soldiers.

No one seriously argues that this has happened -- although al-Jazeera offices being attacked in both Kabul and Baghdad is extraordinarily coincidental. But unless U.S. authorities address concerns about the paltry response to media deaths, the anger and sense of injustice felt by many in journalism will remain.


General Secretary

International Federation of Journalists