By Peter Feuilherade
The number of journalists and support staff killed in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003 now exceeds the toll among the media during 20 years of the Vietnam war, according to separate reports from two international journalists' organisations.
US journalist Steven Vincent was killed in Basra earlier this month
The latest victim was Walid Khalid, a sound recordist working for Reuters news agency, who was shot by US forces in Baghdad on Sunday.
A Reuters cameraman, Haydar Kadhim, was wounded in the shooting and then detained by US forces.
The Brussels-based International News Safety Institute (INSI) said Khalid's death meant that 81 members of the media had died since the war began in March 2003.
By comparison, the Vietnam war claimed about 70 media deaths between 1955 and 1975, INSI noted.
INSI said in a press release on Monday that 50 of the media workers who died in Iraq were killed by insurgents and other unidentified gunmen and bombers.
"American firepower is the next most significant cause of death. There is no firm evidence that US forces have deliberately targeted the news media.
"But there is widespread suspicion that American troops do not take adequate precautions to try to ensure the safety of journalists.
None of the other Coalition forces has killed any journalists," the INSI said.
The Paris-based organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) gave a different total for the media death toll. On Sunday RSF reported that Khalid was the 66th journalist or media assistant to be killed in Iraq since March 2003.
"A total of 63 journalists were killed in the Vietnam war, which lasted from 1955 to 1975," RSF noted.
The International Federation of Journalists, meanwhile, has sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan calling on UN leaders to establish an independent inquiry into the killings of media staff at the hands of US and Coalition forces.
"The number of unexplained media killings by US military personnel is intolerable," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary.
"Media organizations and journalists' families face a wall of silence and an unfeeling bureaucracy that refuses to give clear and credible answers to questions."
In a press release from its Brussels headquarters on Monday, the IFJ said the shooting of Walid Khalid brought to 18 the number of journalists and media staff killed by US troops since the invasion of Iraq.
The federation accused the US army of "incompetence, reckless soldiering, and 'cynical disregard' for the lives of journalists - particularly Iraqi - who are covering events in Iraq."
Another media watchdog, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), puts the media death toll in Iraq at 74, comprising 53 journalists and 21 media workers.
A CPJ press release on Monday said: "The circumstances surrounding several of these deaths suggest indifference on the part of US forces to the presence of civilians, including members of the press, according to CPJ's analysis of the killings."