July 15, 2008

Question About Journalistic Ethics: Are the AP Accomplices to Murder, Traitors, or Just Horrible Journos?

taliban_murder_two_women-afghanistan.jpg

Two unidentified Afghan Women chat with each other a few minutes before they were executed by Taliban in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on late Saturday, July 12, 2008.
(AP Photo/Rahmatullah Naikzad)
[original here]

Phyllis Chesler notes that not only did AP photographer, Basmatullah Naikzad, just stand by and do nothing as two women were brutally murdered by the Taliban–-he (and the Associated Press) also profited off their deaths through the photos they sold. I would also add that Naikzad also made a snuff video. Oh, and the Taliban were comfortable enough with the AP photog that they posed for him. The day before the women were murdered.

Clearly we have a case where the AP embedded one of their photojournalists (stringer?) with the enemies not only of the United States of America, but of civilization itself.

Chesler ends with these interesting questions:

Should photographers document the atrocities? Should they refuse to do so? Will this refusal lead to fewer atrocities–or to even greater license to commit more since no one will be “watching?”
Interesting questions, all. The answer of course is that journalists are human beings. As such, they have a moral obligation to protect innocent human life that trumps any other concern--including so-called "journalistic ethics".

If they can't stop atrocities, should journalists document them? Of course. But would it be too much to ask that journalists and their editors label the atrocities, you know, atrocities!

In this case the AP labeled the Taliban "militants" and called the extra-judicial murder of two women for the alleged crime of prostitution an "execution".

Further, as Rusty Humphries pointed out to me on his radio show last night, journalistic ethics require that the AP fully disclose whether or not Basmatullah Naikzad was filming the Taliban atrocity under duress. This was their defense for the photos taken by Iraqi stringer Bilal Hussein who claims terrorists forced him to photograph them next to the murdered corpse of Salvatore Santoro.

There is no indication that Naikzad was under duress. If he was, the AP does not disclose that fact. This is important because then we might excuse the AP photographer for being forced to videotape what is essentially a snuff film and terrorist propaganda.

This really marks a new low in journalism. In the past we have complained about al Jazeera for airing murder videos produced by terrorist organizations and sent to the Arab network. But the AP one-ups al Jazeera becoming the first news organization to actually produce a terrorist snuff video themselves!

The Associated Press has a lot of explaining to do here. Their explanation needs to start with Naikzad's presence in the midst of an internationally recognized terrorist organization, continue with what steps he took to stop the murder of two women, go on from there to explain whether or not he is helping in the apprehension of the murderers, and then end with why the AP chose to use a value neutral context in reporting what are clearly war crimes.

I have a feeling that we'll receive little satisfaction to any of these questions.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 03:06 PM | Comments |