Abu Dhabi: Journalists on Sunday accused coalition forces of targeting them as they cover the war in Iraq and charged the UN and the Iraqi government with failing to provide adequate protection.
The criticism came during a forum in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, attended by Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, US military spokesmen and media representatives.
"There is a reality of targeting journalists [in Iraq] ? the government can do more to protect them by providing systems, training and resources to allow the media to work without pressure or interference," said Aidan White, secretary-general of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
According to the Arab TV news Channel Al Arabiya, 144 journalists, including 122 Iraqis and 22 foreigners, have been killed in the war in Iraq. The Iraqi Journalists Association puts the figure higher at 173.
Dismissing the accusation, Zebari said he did not believe journalists are politically targeted.
"There were disastrous mistakes and murders, however all sides even competing factions in power and outside, the coalition forces are all working to build the best relationship with journalists," he said.
Recognising the risks journalists are exposed to in Iraq, Zebari said he was sorry for "all victims who covered events with their blood." He remained optimistic, however, that the political climate in the country offered the media a free arena to work in.
In response, White called security for journalists in Iraq "the worst in history."
While recognising that the majority of terrorist attacks are "beyond control", he claimed to have evidence journalists were being targeted and being taken hostage.
Reuters correspondent Khalid Al Ramahi, said four journalists with the international news agency had been killed by US gunfire since the beginning of the war.
Sa'ad Al Bazzaz, an Iraqi journalist, agreed journalists in Iraq were being targeted.
Media 'manned by non-professionals'
A lack of professionalism in the Arab world's media contributes to poor representation of wider Iraqi political life, according to academic and member of the Iraqi National Accord Conference, Dr Amer Al Tamimi.
He told Gulf News despite the abundance of mass media in the Arab world, the coverage of Iraq reflects a weakness in the media, which is supposed to convey a complete picture [of events in Iraq].
"Why does not it paint a complete picture? Because it is manned by non-professionals ? Media professionals are absent now ? what are present are "media workers" ? some are diligent but these are obstructed by regional and international taboos ? Political figures who came with the war are being overly focused on by the media, which is the media's mistake.."