Reuters' freelancers return home

The last of three media professionals freelancing for Reuters have been released by the US Army in Iraq, after being detained for almost eight months without trial.

Samer Mohammed Noor, a 30-year-old cameraman working for the British news agency, was freed from Camp Bucca, near Basra after his arrest in June by Iraqi army officials.

It is still not known why the Iraqi freelance was arrested despite appeals by media freedom groups and his employer for any evidence against the cameraman to be disclosed.

The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said they were ‘relieved’ to hear news of Noor’s release, which followed the release of two other freelance professionals also contracted by Reuters.

Reporter, Majeed Hameed, and fellow cameraman Ali Omar Al Mashadani were freed on January 15 after spending four and five months imprisoned respectively.

RSF and Reuters said while they were pleased at the safe return of the three media professionals, they would continue pressing US authorities for answers over their mystery detention.

All three freelancers reportedly spent their time in Camp Bucca, but Noor was initially jailed in Baghdad’s notorious Abu Grahib prison.

“We are relieved at the release of Samer Mohammed Noor but we do not understand the reasons for keeping him in detention for more than eight months, particularly since there was no concrete evidence against him”, RSF said in a statement.

“The American forces should provide an explanation for this and if they have made a mistake they should apologise to the cameraman, his family and the media which employs him”.

Meanwhile, David Schlesinger, Reuters global managing editor, said: “We are glad that all journalists working for Reuters in Iraq are now free.

“We are concerned, however, that it has taken so long - nearly eight months in the case of Samir - to secure their release, despite a lack of credible evidence against them.”

Reporters Without Borders added that it was repeating its appeal for the release of a journalist working for CBS News, Abdel Amir Younes Hussein, who has been held without trial for more than ten months.

Like the three Reuters journalists, Hussein is said to have been denied access to a lawyer and refused visits from his family or employer, despite several appeals from CBS.

The US Army arrested him in Mosul on 5 April 2005 and he was at first held at Abu Ghraib before being transferred in July to Camp Bucca.


24th January 2006

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