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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Was reporter victim of a 'war crime' ?
By Chris Summers
BBC News

A coroner has recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on veteran British TV reporter Terry Lloyd, who was killed by a US Marine's bullet during the invasion of Iraq. The inquest highlighted the risks faced by journalists at the coalface.

The car in which Terry Lloyd was a passenger
The inquest was shown US footage of the ITN crew's car

"No story is worth dying for," says the National Union of Journalists' broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin.

It was a sentiment which ITN's veteran reporter Terry Lloyd would have shared.

The 50-year-old correspondent was married, with two children, and his friend and colleague Sir Trevor McDonald described him as a "journalist's journalist" but "not a risk taker".

His death did not come about through negligence or foolhardiness, the Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker made clear.

Mr McLaughlin agreed: "ITN did everything they possibly could have done. He was one of their most experienced reporters and this was not a case of a cavalier lack of preparation."

Mr Lloyd and his Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman were killed on 22 March 2003 just south of Basra in southern Iraq.

French cameraman Fred Nerac is missing presumed dead.

(l to r) David Mannion, Chelsey Lloyd and Trevor McDonald
Sir Trevor McDonald (right) said Terry Lloyd was not a "risk taker"

A fourth man in the crew, Belgian Daniel Demoustier, survived the incident but told the inquest: "I was absolutely sure I was going to die. I was 100% sure."

The inquest heard that their vehicles, which were clearly marked as Press, were hit by US tanks.

"Most of the bullets were definitely coming from the American tanks," said Mr Demoustier.

Mr Lloyd suffered a serious but non-fatal wound and was transferred to a makeshift ambulance. But that vehicle was then fired upon and he was killed.

Unilateral or embedded?

Major Kay Roberts, of the Royal Military Police, told the inquest 15 minutes of footage appeared to be missing from a film of the incident which was supplied by the US military.

Mr McLaughlin said the US authorities had not only failed to co-operate with the inquest but had actually obstructed it.

(The Americans) have shown complete contempt for the British legal system and it makes a mockery of the so-called special relationship
Paul McLaughlin
National Union of Journalists
"They have not sent anyone to appear at the inquest and have shown complete contempt for the British legal system and it makes a mockery of the so-called special relationship," he said.

During the Iraq war the BBC, ITN and Sky all had reporters "embedded" with British and US troops.

But they also had so-called "unilateral" journalists travelling and reporting independently.

Mr Lloyd was in the south and his colleague Julian Manyon was in northern Iraq, as was the BBC's John Simpson.

It is easy to jump to the conclusion that Mr Lloyd and his crew would have been safer if they had been "embedded".

But Mr Demoustier told the inquest: "Unilateral journalism is of the highest importance. We can't give this up and I am absolutely sure that both Terry and Fred would continue to do what they did."

The NUJ agrees and Mr McLaughlin said: "We believe in using both embedded and unilateral reporters.

"There are things you can only see when you are with the military but there are also things you can only see when you are not with the military."

Independent, unilateral reporting, free from official strictures, is crucial; not simply to us as journalists but to the role we play in a free and democratic society
David Mannion
ITN

After the inquest ITN's editor in chief David Mannion said: "I would also like to say something that I know Terry would have wished me to say. Independent, unilateral reporting, free from official strictures, is crucial; not simply to us as journalists but to the role we play in a free and democratic society."

Former ITN chief executive Stewart Purvis told the inquest he believed "the British military knew more about what happened at the top level than they were disclosing to us".

He said he believed this may have been linked to their dislike of unilateral journalists and he added: "In my experience the British and the American military do not want unilateral teams operating full stop."

The BBC's Head of Newsgathering, Fran Unsworth, said: "The BBC supports the view of ITN that it is the necessity and right of the media to report conflicts 'unilaterally' and we also would urge all military forces to work with us to accommodate that safely."

Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for the International Federation of Journalists, said most reporters killed in Iraq had been targeted by insurgents.

Death toll

But she said it was not just in war zones that journalists were in danger.

Last weekend Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who had spent years campaigning against Russia's policy in Chechnya and highlighting torture and other human rights abuses, became the 109th journalist killed this year.

Within hours of her death, two German TV journalists who were working in Afghanistan were also killed.

On Thursday several more journalists, technicians and security guards were killed in an attack on a TV station in Baghdad.

Demonstrators hold pictures of Anna Politkovskaya
Anna Politkovskaya's murder last week showed journalists can be targets

Ms Cohen said journalists seemed to be finding it increasingly difficult to have their impartiality respected.

"We believe that journalists are neutral observers who are just there to report the facts. But unfortunately the combatants in a lot of conflicts around the world do not seem to share that view."

She said very few journalists' killers were ever convicted.

"Impunity is a huge problem. I can hardly think of one case where someone has been brought to justice for killing a journalist."

Mr McLaughlin said: "Terry Lloyd was the victim not just of an unlawful killing, but also of a war crime. We would like to see the British government pressing charges against whoever was responsible."

The NUJ's general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "The killing of journalists with impunity must never, ever go unpunished. Any attempt to silence journalists in this way must never succeed."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
US video shows aftermath of attack in which Lloyd died





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