By: Joe Strupp
Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll on Friday criticized those who questioned the existence of an AP Iraq source, who was proven this week to be real, saying the scrutiny has now endangered the man’s life.
“I never quite understood why people chose to disbelieve us about this particular man on this particular story,” Carroll told E&P, referring to Jamil Hussein, an Iraq police captain. “AP runs hundreds of stories a day, and has run thousands of stories about things that have happened in Iraq.”
Carroll pointed out that critics should be more concerned with the fact that Hussein could face imprisonment for being a source to journalists than how AP handled the situation. “A man who is a legitimate police official who has talked to journalists is threatened with arrest for doing so,” she said. “Doesn’t that bother anybody other than me? Officials being threatened with arrest for talking to reporters ought to be of concern.”
Underscoring the dangers there, news emerged Friday that an AP staffer missing six days had been found dead, the fourth AP employee to die in Iraq.
Carroll also questioned the reluctance of Iraq and U.S. authorities to confirm Hussein’s existence after questions about him surfaced following a November AP report on the shooting of six people during an attack on a Sunni mosque. The Iraq Interior Ministry finally confirmed Hussein’s existence on Thursday.
“I never understood why Iraqi authorities and the U.S. military questioned his existence,” she said. “We took the criticism seriously and we kept reporting on it and asking questions about the incident.”
She also said attention should be paid more to the war than to AP’s use of one source. “I think a little perspective is warranted here,” she said. “While this has been going on, hundreds if not thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed and hundreds of serviceman have died.”
But while Iraqi officials — who had denied the man’s existence — eventually aided AP by confirming Hussein’s existence, they also added a new danger to the source, threatening him with arrest for speaking to journalists. According to Iraqi officials, they may seek AP’s help in identifying Hussein as a source in order to prosecute him. Carroll said the news organization had not decided what it would do if asked to participate in such an identification.
“Should that happen, we’ll cross that bridge when it comes to us,” Carroll said. “When we found out he was the subject of an arrest warrant, we talked to him. But his phone has been turned off and we don’t know where he is. We are unaware if he has been arrested.”
Dozens of conservative bloggers have been harshly critical of AP in recent weeks for failing to prove Hussein’s existence. Former CNN president Eason Jordan claimed today that Hussein should have stepped forward sooner and asked why AP did not produce him.
“The man is now under the threat of arrest and imprisonment,” Carroll said in response to Jordan’s comments. “I guess people who ask that are among those who don’t believe the AP, and that is certainly their prerogative.”
When asked what she though of bloggers who criticize other media in light of this incident, Carroll would not condemn all of them. “I wouldn’t say bloggers are this unanimous group, there are smart and responsible blogs that help you and there are those who are water cooler blogs,” she said. “They are not any more monochromatic than the more conventional news media.”
Related E&P Stories:
— Disputed AP Source in Iraq Does Exist — And Now Faces Arrest for Talking to Media
— AP’s Iraqi Source Is Real: Now What Do Conservative Bloggers Say?