February 17, 2003 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Iraqi crisis : media held hostage

On 14 February 2003 the American authorities asked the correspondent of the Iraqi press agency INA in New York to leave the country within a fortnight. According to a State Department spokesman, Mohamed Hassan Alaoui stands accused of "engaging in activities outside his normal duties and considered prejudicial to national security". The Iraqi authorities reacted the same day by ordering the expulsion of Greg Palkot, correspondent of the American TV channel Fox News in Baghdad. "Journalists should not be confused with spies. The American authorities should give evidence to support their accusations against the New York correspondent of the Iraqi press agency", said Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. "As for the reaction of the Iraqi authorities, it is completely unacceptable. Journalists cannot be the subject of such cynical blackmail. They cannot be expelled at will or in a discriminatory manner depending on their nationality. Have the American and Iraqi authorities decided to open hostilities by taking journalists as targets?" he added. The United States has given Mohamed Hassan Alaoui, INA correspondent in New York, and his family, a fortnight to leave the country. Nothing has been specified as to whether the Iraqis would be allowed to send a replacement journalist. As for the American channel Fox News - the most watched in the United States ahead of CNN according to the latest audience rates - it has been authorised to keep three technicians in Baghdad. Its reporter Greg Palkot, who had been on the spot for two weeks, is believed to have been expelled on 17 February and apparently contacts are taking place with the Iraqi authorities to replace him.