Friday, October 27, 2006

Using the military tribunals against journalists

One sign that new government powers go to far is when they are used to attack journalists. Here is an example of that happening in the war on terror.

Sami al-Haj is a cameraman for Al-Jazeera who has been held for five years in Guantanamo without being charged. He was picked up on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan while covering the war there. The Pentagon maintains he carried money for Chechen rebels and has worked for Al Quada, but the evidence for these claims is secret. Mr. al-Haj's lawyer (who cannot attend his hearings) maintains that the US holding him to get information about Al-Jazeera, which they consider to be an enemy organization. (Remember the still-unconfirmed reports that Bush wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera?) While in custody, al-Haj has been subject to beatings, stress positions, and denial of medical care. No one can say whether the charges against al-Haj have any merit, nor will we be able to until he is given a fair, public trail. He has a wife and a son who was one year old when he wsa arrested. The son, Muhammad, is now six. Here is al-Haj's page at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

If I get the chance, I will also try to write up the case of Bilal Hussein. There is one thing I can say about Hussein right away: If an American reporter, embedded with American troops, were captured by insurgent forces, would you want her to be treated the way we are treating Hussein?

Cases like these are what led Reporters without Borders to lower the United States' rating for freedom of the press nine places, to 53rd, on a par with Croatia, Botswana, and Tonga.

No comments: