Monday, October 02, 2006

From print to prison: An Iraqi photographer's plight

In the aftermath of war in Iraq and constant threat of terrorism, Tom Curley, president and CEO of the Associated Press, took up his pen in another kind of fight to write a column for Bilal Hussein. - In Iraq, a journalist in limbo - Sep 29, 2006*

Hussein, an Iraqi AP photographer whose photo helped AP win a Pulitzer Prize last year, has currently been detained in a U.S. Army prison in Iraq for six months. The U.S. Army says Hussein's ability to capture the kind of photos he gets is cause for suspicion that he may have ties with Iraqi insurgents.

Curley defends Hussein, not only because he believes in his innocence but because he believes in the AP being able to hire foreign journalists who can get to places American reporters may not be able to break through, whether because of ethnicity, language or cultural sensitivity. In other words, the AP is able to capture some of its greatest photographic and video imagery because of the kind of reporters it hires overseas.

Is the U.S. Army being paranoid to be suspicious of reporters like Hussein? Is Curley making the right defense, not only for Hussein, but by entrusting people with cameras and microphones and trusting them as long as they get great footage? Or is Curley doing the right thing in fighting for his reporter's freedom?

But then again, are we really sure about who we hire and where?

- AL


At Wednesday, October 04, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I think Curley is doing the right thing in fighting for his reporter's freedom, provided that he's confident Hussein doesn't have ties to the insurgency. I think any news media outlet should fight for its reporters, even if that means standing up to the military.

Now as to Curley hiring Hussein in the first place, that I'm not so sure about. On one hand, I think it's a smart move, both for the AP as a business and as a news organization, to hire people who can get access to places other AP reporters cannot. It should mean better, more in-depth coverage. Also, as an Iraqi, Hussein has unique insight into the circumstances and values of the people he is covering. That being said, the AP has taken a big risk in hiring him. If the AP checked him out and does its best to make sure he follows their policies, then it has done all it can to ensure he's a credible journalist. And I hope the AP is willing to explain if it turns out Hussein is not, because by publishing his photographs the AP has linked its reputation to Hussein's.

Posted by AJ


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