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IFJ calls for military withdrawal as journalists trapped in Baghdad siege

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for Military to Withdraw Over Arab Journalists Trapped in Baghdad Siege

The International Federation of Journalists today called on the Iraqi and American forces to pull back from a confrontation in Baghdad where 27 journalists working in the Baghdad bureau of Abu Dhabi TV have been caught in the crossfire.

The journalists and technicians of Abu Dhabi TV and al-Jazeera spent the night in the Abu Dhabi building, and were still trapped on Wednesday. The IFJ has appealed to the American command in Qatar who have passed the appeal on to operational units, but the situation is made worse because of fears the journalists are being used as a shield by regular Iraqi troops behind the building.

"It is urgent that the military pull back so that the media staff and other civilians can withdraw," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The Iraqi forces must not use journalists and media staff as a shield. That is completely unacceptable and a violation of international law."

The IFJ says that in the current dangerous conditions everything must be done to protect all civilians, particularly journalists. "Many media organisations have pulled their people out because of recent events and the situation is by no means clear," said White. "We fear for the safety of our colleagues who are under siege. They must be protected and evacuated to a safe location."

Journalists have appealed for rescue to non-governmental organizations, including the International Red Cross. However, the Red Cross pulled out of Baghdad today, saying that the situation was too dangerous.

The Abu Dhabi building is the site of one of three deaths among media workers on Tuesday. Tareq Ayoub, a journalist with al-Jazeera, died when a bomb hit the building. It is situated by the river Tigris, close to the Palestine Hotel, where fire from a US tank killed Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters, and Spanish Telecinco cameraman José Couso.

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries.

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