Dread in Babylon

© Guy Smallman
The Baghdad TV building
Dozens of foreign journalists have been killed in Iraq since its occupation. But how many Iraqi journalists (or government press officers) were killed? No-one seems to know, but the state of the TV building in Baghdad shown in Guy Smallman's photo at right gives a grim clue.

Branch members Guy and Jess Hurd reported back to the November London Freelance Branch meeting on their trip to Baghdad with a trade union delegation at the beginning of October. They reminded us that though more than 100 newspapers sprang up after Bush declared victory, US administrator Paul Bremner immediately issued a decree threatening action against any that promoted "ill-feeling toward myself or the occupying forces".

Guy highlighted the case of Junis Kuthair, an experienced cameraman who had been imprisoned under the Baath régime for writing subversive poetry and who worked for Channel 4 during the invasion and its immediate aftermath. The delegation were told that his house had been raided by US troops who took him away with his brother - a lecturer in technical drawing - and all his videotapes. The US has yet to admit holding him. This may be because they don't know who they are holding. The Branch resolved to do what it can to get him released.

© Guy Smallman
Maintenance workers on one of Bechtel's locomotives...
One example of the difficulties of forming independent trades unions comes from the railways - now handed over to US corporation Bechtel. A mass meeting of 600 of the 650 workers at the Baghdad depot resolved to form an independent trade union, and sent a delegation to the civil authorities. They were met by US soldiers pointing guns at them, protecting a meeting with the old Baath union. The soldiers ended up escorting the Baathists out.

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