Reporters Without Borders

The Obama administration should renew its commitment to transparency and accountability

The Obama administration should renew its commitment to transparency and accountability

Published on Tuesday 6 April 2010. Updated on Wednesday 7 April 2010.
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Reporters Without Borders is asking the US government for increased transparency after the whistleblower website WikiLeaks released a video on April 5th, 2010, of a US military Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad three years ago which killed two Reuters employees and several other people. Wikileaks said that it had obtained the video "from a number of military whistleblowers" and posted it at collateralmurder.org.

Reuters filed a FOIA request in for the video back in 2007 but it was never released.

According to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), all agencies of the U.S. Government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request, except those records that are protected from disclosure pursuant to nine exemptions and three exclusions.

"We support Wikileaks decision to post the video because the administration did not live up to its responsibilities in this case," said Reporters Without Borders. "We urge the Pentagon to be more transparent and call on the Obama administration to show its committing to justice by reconsidering the request and officially releasing the video and other elements that would help the investigation".

"By not granting this FOIA request, the Obama administration would once again be ignoring its promises of more transparency and accountability" said the press freedom organization. "It would be a blow to freedom of the press and to the principle that it is not up to the government to define what is newsworthy."

According to the AFP, A US military official did not dispute the authenticity of the video but said it "doesn’t give new information, it just gives footage. "Since 2007, we acknowledged everything that’s in the video," the official said. "We acknowledged that the strike took place and that there were two Reuters employees (killed)." "We had insurgents and reporters in an area where US forces were about to be ambushed. At the time we weren’t able to discern whether (the Reuters employees) were carrying cameras or weapons," the official said.

In July 2007, photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40, were killed in east Baghdad by gunfire of unclear origin. Witnesses said a rocket was fired from a US helicopter. But other sources told Reuters they could have been killed by a mortar shell fired by Iraqi militia members. At the time Reporters Without Borders called on both the US army and the Iraqi police to investigate their deaths.

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, at least 221 journalists have been killed, making it the deadliest war for reporters.

On December 31, 2007, George W. Bush signed amendments to the FOIA into law, improving public access to information about federal government activity. However, at that time, 92 videos related to interrogations of Guantanamo Bay prisoners were destroyed and never made public despite a request from the ACLU.

On April 15th, 2010, the CIA will have to release documents detailing meetings between Nancy Pelosi and her aide Michael Sheeny on matters relating to “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Reporters Without Borders deeply hope that the US agency will keep its word this time.

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