By: Greg Mitchell
Thomas Curley, president and CEO of The Associated Press, filed a story himself on Sept. 23, penning an Op-Ed column for The Washington Post about the case of one of his Iraqi photographers detained for over five months by the U.S. military. Many other newspapers reprinted it the following day.
Just a week earlier, the AP broke its silence on this case to demand that Bilal Hussein be put on trial ? or released. The photog allegedly was involved in some way with insurgents in Iraq, but like many prisoners there, has not been formally charged. The U.S. military did not change his status following initial protests by the AP.
In the column, Curley offered biographical details about the photographer, and observed, “As the organization that handed Bilal the camera that helped put him where he is today, the Associated Press cannot turn its back on him. We cannot dismiss Bilal’s insistence that he is not an insurgent solely on the strength of the unexamined suspicions offered by the U.S. military.” Hussein’s work was part of package that won a Pulitzer Prize for the AP in 2005.
Curley’s surprisingly hard- hitting opinion column, which called for “due process,” continued, “After more than five months of trying to bring Bilal’s case into the daylight, AP is now convinced the Army doesn’t care whether Bilal is or isn’t an insurgent.
“The Army doesn’t have to care. Bilal is off the street, and the military says it doesn’t consider itself accountable to any judicial authority that could question his guilt. But Bilal’s incarceration delivers a further bonus. He is no longer free to circulate in his native Fallujah or in Ramadi, taking photographs that coalition commanders would prefer not to see published.”