How many journalists is the U.S. holding?

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Feb 21, 2008 How many journalists is the U.S. holding?

Bill of Rights. (From the public domain.)

The United States military learned much from the negative Vietnam War news coverage, to make more effective efforts at making people think subsequent wars are more like detached Space Invaders games than the bloody scenes of carnage they really are.

Where will the U.S. government stop at trying to whitewash news coverage of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? (In her 2004 book Exception to the Rulers, Amy Goodman covers such whitewashing, and the complicity of too many journalists and news organizations in the whitewashing.) The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the U.S. military has held CTV journalist Jawed Ahmad (also known as Jojo Yazemi) in detention in Afghanistan since October 2007, without charge or trial. The Washington Post reports: "Maj. Chris Belcher, a U.S. military spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that Ahmad is being held but said that he could not discuss details of the case."

The Committee to Protect Journalists said on February 18: "Ahmad had only worked in journalism for one year, according to New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall, who knows both him and [his brother] Siddique from her reporting trips to Kandahar. ‘All of the local press corps have numbers of the Taliban and interview them regularly,’ she told CPJ. ‘Jawed had nothing more than the others in the way of contacts with the Taliban,’ she said. Gall said Ahmad had also worked before that as a translator for the U.S. military and later for a security company in Kandahar. ‘I have known him for some years from my many reporting trips to Kandahar. Jawed is well known among the local Kandahar press corps, as is Siddique, who worked sometimes as a driver for journalists staying at the Continental Guesthouse in Kandahar,’ Gall said in a message to CPJ."

On the South Asian Journalists Association’s webpage, Anup Kaphle  asserts that Mr. Ahmad’s situation is not the first time that the United States military has held journalists without charge; I assume he is referring to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; I have e-mailed him this morning asking for details of this assertion, having been unable to find such information on the website of the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

It is bad enough that the U.S. government intentionally detains and renditions terror suspects abroad to try to avoid having to provide the Constitutional protections that would be required within United States borders. When the United States detains journalists — who collectively present about the only non-government-controlled window on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — the U.S. government best immediately give an honest explanation for the detention and for any lack of criminal charges, without repeatedly claiming that security will be compromised to reveal such information. Jawed Ahmad’s continued detention by the U.S. military without formal charges — or even any public claim that he is an enemy combatant — flies in the face of any claims that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are about securing people’s freedom and chills quality and independent coverage of those wars. Jon Katz.

ADDENDUM: Thanks to South Asian Journalists Association member Anup Kaphle for responding with the following links in reply to my request for details about other journalists detained by the American military: 

– The February 21, 2008, New York Times reports: "At least two other journalists are known to be in American detention: Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi staff photographer for The Associated Press, has been held in Iraq since April 2006. Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman for Al Jazeera, has been detained since 2001, mostly at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba."

– The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the United States military has detained dozens of journalists in Iraq, including eight for at least several weeks or more without formal charges against them.

– Al-Jazeera reporter Sami al-Haj is detained in Guantanamo, Cuba, having been detained in various countries since 2001.

– For extra measure, here is Democracy Now’s coverage of former Guantanamo prison chaplain James Yee, who ultimately was thrown into solitary confinement for several weeks.

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