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Boston Globe Reporter Expelled from Iraq

BY Admin  March 14, 2003 at 12:00 PM EST

Filipov, 40, who had been in Iraq’s capital since March 4, was ordered to leave the country Thursday after he used a satellite phone to talk with his newspaper from a hotel room at the Al-Rashid Hotel, according to Globe Foreign Editor James Smith.

Filipov drove out of Iraq and arrived safely in Amman, Jordan on Friday. His Iraqi visa was set to expire March 18.

Iraqi press regulations say that journalists can only send stories through satellite phones from the hotel’s press center and restrict the hours during which stories can be filed, Smith said.

Filipov was one of several journalists on Thursday selected by Iraqi officials to inspect one of the drone weapons that U.S. officials say indicate that Baghdad remains in violation of its disarmament obligations.

The Iraqis sought to dispel the U.S. contention that the drones were able to carry chemical or biological weapons. At first the Globe planned to run a wire story about the event, but later decided to have Filipov write a story, Smith told Editor & Publisher magazine.

Because of the late assignment, Filipov completed the story around 2 a.m., well after the time Iraq allows journalists to file their stories.

Globe Editor Martin Baron told Editor & Publisher that Filipov went to the press center, retrieved his satellite phone, and filed the story from his hotel room.

When he returned to the press center later Thursday, he was ordered to leave the country.

“He was not harmed, but they confiscated his [satellite] phone,” said Smith. “We received the story, which ran in Thursday’s paper.”

Smith said he believed the Iraqi government was angered by Filipov’s decision to use the phone late at night from his hotel room, instead of the foreign press center.

“For a lone correspondent like David operating without an office, a satellite phone is an essential tool to communicate with us and transmit his stories,” Smith told Reuters.

“We’re disappointed that this was done by the Iraqi government … especially since he was writing a story the Iraqis had invited reporters to cover,” Baron told Editor & Publisher.

Smith said he did not expect the Globe to assign anyone else to Baghdad ahead of a potential U.S.-led invasion.

Filipov’s expulsion comes days after Turkish authorities kicked out two U.S. journalists for illegally attempting to cross the border into northern Iraq.

Los Angeles Times photographer Don Bartletti and Alan Weeks, a freelance cameraman for ABC News, were detained by Turkish police late Monday a few hundred yards from the border, Bartletti said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

Bartletti said he and Weeks were interrogated and held overnight in military barracks, but were not mistreated. A court on Tuesday fined them $50 and then ordered their release, Bartletti said. Later, police and U.S. Officials notified them they had to leave the country within three days.

Los Angeles Times spokesman David Garcia said that Bartletti was leaving the country to resume his assignment from another location in the Middle East. ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider confirmed Weeks was also leaving the country.

Aside from government-planned tours, Turkish authorities have prohibited journalists from crossing the Turkish-Iraqi border since 1996.

Many journalists have remained in the Iraqi capital despite strong warnings from Pentagon Press Secretary Victoria Clarke on Feb. 27 that Baghdad was “not a safe place to have journalists.”