Newspapers, Online Editors, TV, Show Images of Saddam Hanging

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By: E&P Staff

With the videotaped execution of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein on Friday night, newspaper, online and TV editors in the U.S. debated what, if anything, to show of the act. As promised, video and photos of the event were aired on Iraq TV a few hours after the 10 PM ET execution.

When the time came, a photo from the hanging was quickly posted at the top of the Web sites of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, showing Saddam with the noose being fitted around his neck. They chose not to run — so far — another photo of Hussein after the execution.

USA Today’s site, however, carried three pictures in a gallery, with a second photo of the noose-fitting scene and a shot of Saddam after the act, with blood near his mouth.

The New York Times later put up 70-second video of Saddam getting the noose fitted around his neck, stopping short of the actual hanging. On its site, the video screen was adjacent to an ad for the current movie about Idi Amin, “The Last King of Scotland.” The Washington Post also put up the same video, somewhat less prominently.

Fox News may have been first to air footage on American TV, also stopping the images just before the hanging. CNN International also apparently aired it at same time.

CNN, among others, put up over a minute of footage on its Web site, leading up to the actual hanging, showing a very calm Hussein ready to meet his fate. It was preceded by a warning of “graphic” images to come.

Early this morning, The Associated Press had transmitted a screen shot ? off an Arabic TV coverage ? of a video image released by Iraqi state television which shows Saddam Hussein’s guards, the caption explains, ?wearing ski masks and placing a noose around the deposed leader’s neck moments before his execution Saturday Dec. 30. 2006. Clutching a Quran and refusing a hood, Saddam Hussein went to the gallows before sunrise Saturday, executed by vengeful countrymen after a quarter-century of remorseless brutality that killed countless thousands and led Iraq into disastrous wars against the United States and Iran.?

AP also showed a closeup of Saddam on the floor after the hanging, with a little blood near his mouth, and it was quickly posted at Yahoo News and the Drudge Report. The caption reads: ?This video image released by the Biladi TV stations, which are affiliated with the Dawa party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. appears to show the body of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein wrapped in a white shroud following his execution.?

When al-Qaeda leader Zarqawi was killed earlier this year, many newspapers showed close up images of his corpse and battered face on their front pages, drawing some complaints.

On CNN, Anderson Cooper, shortly after the 10:00 p.m. hanging, had said that photos and video were expected to be released by the Iraqi government shortly and that the network would review them and air what it finds “appropriate,” after warning viewers.

What the images might also show, according to one eyewitness to the event: observers chanting and dancing around the body.

Two Hussein relatives/associates were to be executed with him but the Iraqi government postponed that at the last minute, saying they wanted the day to be known solely for Saddam’s death.

The New York Times reported Friday afternoon that “the news divisions at ABC and CBS said that, should video become available, they will show some visual documentation of Saddam?s death but will not use overly graphic images or show complete execution.

“NBC News, however, indicated it might go further. Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said that network may show ‘a wide shot of Saddam hanging.’ He said NBC would make its decision based on questions both of taste and of history. ‘I think it might be appropriate at some point to see an image of Saddam after he is hanged,’ Mr. Capus said, citing previous historic images of dictators who had been killed.”

Bob Murphy, the senior vice president of ABC News, said that ABC News will not allow its Web site to show anything more than what is permitted on television. ?The decision will be for all of ABC News,? Murphy told the Times. ?What is excluded for ABC News on television will be excluded for all ABC News outlets.?

The Times report concluded: “And a representative from YouTube did not respond to questions about the policy of that popular video site, which has previously offered videos with graphic battle footage from Iraq.”

In a statement delivered with no apparent irony, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said, “Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him.”

Earlier Friday, in an editorial, The New York Times observed, “This week began with a story of British and Iraqi soldiers storming a police station that hid a secret dungeon in Basra. More than 100 men, many of them viciously tortured, were rescued from almost certain execution. It might have been a story from the final days of Baathist rule in March 2003, when British and American troops entered Basra believing they were liberating the subjugated Shiite south. But it was December 2006, and the wretched men being liberated were prisoners of the new Iraqi Shiite authorities.

“Toppling Saddam Hussein did not automatically create a new and better Iraq. Executing him won?t either.”

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