AP Maintains Low Profile On Detained Cameraman in Iraq

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By: Joe Strupp

Three weeks after Associated Press cameraman Ahmed Nouri was detained by Iraqi and U.S. military forces, AP is maintaining a low profile on his case, offering little comment and virtually no reporting on his ongoing detention.

Not a surprise, given that such sensitive situations often result in little or no publicity early on, with hopes that negotiations will move best with few outside distractions.

AP officials only recently saw the successful release, in April, of AP photographer Bilal Hussein after two years in a similar captivity. In that case, AP maintained almost no outward publicity on his case for about five months, but went on something of a campaign to get him released in late 2006.

At one point, Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll asked newspaper editors to use their pages as part of AP’s campaign to promote Hussein’s freedom. He was eventually released in April 2008.

In a similar situation, the Christian Science Monitor actually requested and got cooperation for a news blackout in January 2006 when one of its correspondents, Jill Carroll, was abducted and held in Baghdad. Most major U.S. news outlets did not report on the abduction for 48 hours, but later covered the story through her eventual release nearly three months later.

Today, Carroll maintained limited comment on Nouri, stating only in an e-mail: “We are continuing to work with the military toward a resolution that we hope will come soon.”

Despite AP’s limited publicity, Nouri’s case has been highlighted by several international rights groups, such as Reporters without Borders, which sought his release in several public efforts, including a June 10 statement that declared: “Reporters without Borders (RSF) and its partner organization, the Journalistic Freedom Observatory in Iraq (JFO), call for the release of Associated Press (AP) cameraman Ahmed Nouri, who has been held since 4 June 2008 at the U.S. military base in Tikrit (180 km north of Baghdad).

“His continued, unjustified detention is a blatant violation of Iraqi law,” the two organizations said in the release. “He must be freed at once if he is not charged with any offense. We strongly deplore the efforts of the security forces to intimidate journalists and media workers. It would be inadmissible, less than two months after the release of AP photographer Bilal Hussein, for another AP staffer to be caught up in an endless political and legal tangle.”

The group’s release also stated: “A joint U.S.-Iraqi military patrol arrested Nouri at his home in the Al-Zohour neighborhood of eastern Tikrit on 4 June, seized more than 20 tape-recordings and told his family he was to be interrogated for “security reasons.” A former prisoner recently released from the Tikrit base confirmed to the JFO that Nouri was being held there. Nouri was imprisoned for two months in 2004 at the Baghdad prison of Abu Ghraib before being released without being charged with any crime.”

Even in that report, AP spokesman Paul Colford said only that the news cooperative was “investigating the situation.”

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