ASNE and APPM Presidents Protest to Rumsfeld About Detention of AP Photog

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By: E&P Staff

In an act of solidarity, the presidents of the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME), the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), and the Associated Press Photo Managers have sent a joint letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking for the release of Bilal Hussein, an Iraq native and Associated Press photographer who has been held in U.S. custody in Iraq for the past seven months.

“The members of our three organizations stand united in our outrage at the imprisonment of our colleague,” states the letter.

Arguing that the U.S. government has not issued enough proof that Hussein is or was involved with the insurgency in Iraq, the letter called for his release as a necessity for U.S. credibility.

?On the home front, your hasty decision to arrest Hussein has denied our readers a part of the story. Your refusal to offer proof has given our military justice system a black eye. And your refusal to give our colleague his day in court, or any semblance of due process, has violated a cherished American value,? stated the letter.

Since Hussein is not a U.S. citizen, he has not been guaranteed any trial or formal charges and therefore ?stuck in the netherworld of U.S. custody,? the letter said. Of 80 AP staffers currently in Iraq, 75 are Iraqi nationals.

Justification for Hussein?s arrest, said the letter, came from four of his photos that contained still-burning wreckage in Iraq, which led to the allegation that he was involved in the kidnapping of two Arab journalists. After a review by AP editors, the letter-signers said that they believe these photos were a mark of quick and responsive journalism, not proof of collusion with the Iraq insurgency.

The letter was signed by Suki Dardarian, president of APME; David Zeeck, president of ASNE; and Steve Gonzales, president AP Photo Managers.

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