The Unconscionable Death of Mazen Dana
By Eve Berliner
Mazen Dana, winner of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award, a journalist of rare devotion and courage.
By Eve Berliner
They march into history, the fallen soldiers of journalism who bear witness,
invincible, driven, unyielding in their determination to unearth the truth, expose what is, courting danger and the unpredictable. They run on adrenalin and guts, fierce dedication, the work an obsession, a demon, a mission for which they will shed their blood and offer up their lives in sacrifice.
His work was his life, tough and dangerous, on the frontiers of battle, Mazen Dana, a veteran conflict cameraman for Reuters and a Palestinian, killed by machine gun fire from a U.S. tank while filming outside the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad, late on the afternoon of August 17, 2003.
Mazen Dana, 43 years of
age, married and the father of four, the recipient of The Committee to
Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award of 2001 for his heroic
work in the cauldron of
He was to die in
The videotape in his
camera retrieved after his death disclosed two oncoming
Stephan Breitner of
Dana's soundman, Nael al-Shyoukihi, an eyewitness to the
killing, stated that the Reuters team had identified themselves to
They had filmed an
overview of the prison from a nearby bridge and were about to depart when
Mazen observed the approach of a convoy of
"They saw us and they knew about our identities and our mission."
The vehicles were at
close range, approximately 55 yards away [50 meters], Shyoukihi would recount
Mazen had been filming for about ten seconds when suddenly, with no warning or exchange of words, several shots rang out from the lead tank. Shyoukihi dived for cover. Mazen screamed and clutched his hands to his chest, bleeding profusely from the horrific exit wound in his back. Six American soldiers quickly surrounded them!
"You killed a journalist!" cried out Shyoukihi.
"Stand back!" screamed the soldier who had fired the fatal shots.
"I will step back but please help, please help to stop the bleed!"
"They tried to help him but Mazen bled heavily. Mazen took his last breath and died before my eyes," Shyoukihi said softly.
Another eyewitness, Reuters cameraman Essam Nadin, shaking with sobs, "The tanks came, he was taking pictures and they just started shooting. It was his last day here. I came to replace him. What am I supposed to tell his wife?"
* * *
The death of Mazen Dana
drew a worldwide outcry. Reuters, The
Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontieres in
"The latest death is hard to bear," said Reuters chief executive Tom Glacer in a statement. "That's why I am personally calling upon the highest levels of the United States Government for a full and comprehensive investigation into this terrible tragedy."
The Committee to Protect
Journalists charged that the shooting "raises serious questions about
the conduct of
Reporters Sans Frontieres demanded a full public investigation by the U.S. military and accused the United States of failing to conduct proper public inquiries into its previous killings of journalists four month's earlier, notably those of Reuters cameraman Tara Prostyuk and Spanish cameraman, Jose Couso of Telecinco, killed during the U.S. shelling of Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, the unofficial headquarters for the world's news media during the Iraq invasion.
One month later, on
U.S. Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Guy Shields: "I can't give you details on the rules of engagement but the enemy is not in formations, they are not wearing uniforms. During wartime, firing a warning shot is not a necessity. There is not time for a warning shot if there is a potential for an ambush."
The investigation concluded that the shooting of Mazen Dana was "justified."
* * *
He had come to
He spoke gently:
"To be a journalist
and cameraman in a city of lost hope like
"Today you are
working 24 hours. And sometimes you are
not able to sit with your kids. And
sometimes you have no holiday, no time to rest, no time even to eat, because
of the bad situation in
"Since I'm working
"We are journalists who are neutral. We carry a gift. We show the world what's going on. We are not part of the conflict...And journalists and especially the cameraman showing the people the truth. My motive to be and to continue my work even if it is costed for me a lot of problems and a lot of injury; my motive to continue my work even if it costs me my life, because journalists have a message and they carrying the message...and they lead the audience to see what's going on, to judge....Even soldiers they want to do something. They see a camera, they are afraid of cameras and they stop, and many many times they thank us because we are there, otherwise it will be a massacre…Because I know it is the business of the carrier of the terrible. And I, any, no one, nothing can stop me from doing my work as a journalist."