Thursday, July 16, 2009

WWB: imprisoning journalists without charges

WHAT WAR BRINGS: imprisoning journalists without charges

This blog post will cover some of the journalists who were detained by US authorities, that is, the US military. I am not sure that the word ‘detained’ is the best word. Since they are not charged, or granted the right to face those charges in a court of law, I think of them as “kidnapped”.

Right now, the US is still holding a Reuters journalist without charges in Iraq. He was at his home in Mahmoudiya, Iraq, when the US troops showed up and broke down the front door. They came with dogs, and frightened the hell out of the little children in the family.

US still holding Reuters journalist without charges in Iraq

Ibrahim Jassam, a cameraman and photographer for the Reuters news agency, stepped forward, one of this brothers recalled. "Take me if you want me, but please leave my brothers." The soldiers rifled through the house, confiscating his computer hard drive and cameras. And then they led him away, handcuffed and blindfolded. That was Sept. 2. [in 2008 – dancewater] Jassam, 31, has been in U.S. custody ever since. His case is the latest of a dozen detentions the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has documented since 2001.

No formal accusations have been made against Jassam, and an Iraqi court ordered in November that he be released for lack of evidence. But the U.S. military continues to hold him, saying it has intelligence that he is "a high security threat," said Maj. Neal Fisher, spokesman for detainee affairs.

Mr. Jassam is still in prison in Iraq, even though the Iraqi government has asked for his release. So much for sovereignty.

This, from the same article, is what Committee to Protect Journalists has to say:

Yet the U.S. has routinely used the arbitrary powers it assumed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks to hold journalists without charge in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

None of the detained journalists has been convicted of any charge, undermining the United States' reputation when it comes to criticizing other countries on issues of press freedom, committee executive director Joel Simon said.

And here is how his brother says Mr. Jassam is doing in prison:

Jassam's brother, Walid, visited him recently in Camp Bucca, the desolate, tented U.S. prison camp in the desert in southern Iraq, and found him close to the breaking point.

"He used to be handsome, but now he's pale and he's tired," said Walid, who says his brother had no ties to insurgents. "Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me: 'Please do something to get me out of here. I don't know what is the charge against me.'

"I told him we already tried everything."

Here are some more examples of journalists who were imprisoned without charges for long periods of time by the US military.

Sami Haj

Sami Haj, a cameraman for the TV network Al Jazeera, was detained by Pakistani authorities as he tried to cross into Afghanistan in 2001 to cover the offensive against the Taliban. He was turned over to the U.S. military, which held him for six years at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was accused him of being a courier for militant Islamic organizations, but was never charged. He was released a year ago.

Bilal Hussein

In Iraq, Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was held for two years without trial before being released in April 2008 on the orders of an Iraqi judge under the terms of an amnesty law. The U.S. military maintained that Hussein had links to insurgents, but the AP said the allegations were based on nothing more than the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs of insurgents that he had taken on the streets of Ramadi, in western Iraq.

Jawed Ahmad

Jawed Ahmad (Jojo) was an Afghan reporter working for Canadian media outlet CTV who was arrested by American troops and declared an unlawful enemy combatant, while working with NATO at Kandahar Airport on October 26, 2007.

Ahmad was then held in military custody at the detention facility at the United States Air Base in Bagram, Afghanistan for 11 months without access to a lawyer. While imprisoned, Ahmad was tortured and suffered broken ribs and other injuries. He was never charged with any crime nor given any opportunity to present evidence of his innocence. As a result of advocacy by his friends and family, and a habeas corpus petition filed by the International Justice Network, Jojo was released on September 21, 2008 after almost a year of being held in U.S. custody.

Here is what Committee to Protect Journalists had to say about his imprisonment and the situation in Afghanistan:

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which included more than 47,000 foreign troops, resorted to increasingly heavy-handed tactics, leading to civilian casualties and eroding the government’s popularity and political control. The case of a local journalist who was jailed for 11 months by the U.S. military reflected the sort of tactics that sowed discontent. Afghan journalists told CPJ that they were angered by the military’s handling of the case.

Mr. Ahmad was later killed in a drive by shooting in Kandahar. That happened in March 2009.

The above is just a sampling. The Committee to Protect Journalists put this in their 2008 report on Iraq and journalism:

Over the last five years, dozens of journalists--mostly Iraqis--have been detained by U.S. troops without charge, according to CPJ research. In at least 12 cases, journalists were held for prolonged periods in Iraq. No charges have been substantiated in any of the cases.

So, is it ‘detaining’ or ‘kidnapping’ if there are no charges? It seems to me that if the authorities are not going to follow the law and consistently abuse human rights, then they are no longer detaining people. They are just criminal kidnappers.

They have a comprehensive report on Afghanistan too.

And according to one Human Rights lawyer, the US is building a jail in Afghanistan to hold local journalists. This charge was made in 2008.

But, OH BOY, that does not stop the US Government under the Bush administration and the Obama administration, from being total and complete hypocrites about the detaining of journalists. Just recently, an American-Iranian journalist named Roxana Saberi was arrested, tried, and convicted of espionage in Iran. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.

So, we have an arrest, charges, trial – and prison sentence. And in the trial there was evidence presented (she had official papers found on her) that at least indicated that the charges were legitimate.

And the HYPOCRISY ensued:

The Obama administration harshly criticized Iran for its imprisonment of Roxana Saberi, the U.S.-Iranian journalist who was convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison before being freed two weeks ago. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Iran's treatment of Saberi as "non-transparent, unpredictable and arbitrary."

Of course, the same thing is repeating itself in North Korea, although I don’t think the North Korean government actually has any evidence of spying. But those two American journalists did go into North Korea without permission and got caught. I hope they are released soon, just like I hope Ibrahim Jassam is released soon. Or at least given a trial.

But we surely don’t have any moral ground to tell other countries what to do.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: imprisoning journalists without charges.

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