In April 2005, the Associated Press won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography, in connection with its work in iraq. When the AP celebrated its award, it credited five Iraqi stringers:
The AP won for a series of graphic and heartbreaking pictures of bloody combat in Iraq. Some of the photos had already won prizes. Many were taken at great personal risk to the photographers, including pictures of gunmen executing Iraqi election workers in the midst of morning traffic, and the charred remains of U.S. contractors who had been killed, dismembered, burned and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.
“These photographers showed extraordinary courage,” said AP President and CEO Tom Curley….
In a series of posts culminating in this one, we wrote about this photograph of Iraqi terrorists in the act of murdering two election workers. The photo appears to have been taken by someone who had no fear of the terrorists. The AP admitted, in fact, that their photographer had been “tipped off” by the terrorists, but claimed that he was only told that a “demonstration” would occur:
For some reason, this was the only photograph in the AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning submission for which the photographer’s name was withheld. So we don’t know whether it was taken by Bilal Hussein, who was one of the Iraqi stringers credited by the AP with some of the Pulitzer-winning photos, including this one:
Bilal Hussein also took this photo of two Iraqi terrorists and an Italian hostage, whom the terrorists had just murdered:
Now, the Associated Press wants us to believe that the man who took these photographs showed “extraordinary courage” because they were “taken at great personal risk” to the photographer. But I don’t buy it. It appears obvious that the person who took these photos knew that the terrorists wanted the pictures taken. If the terrorists hadn’t wanted the pictures taken, they would have shot the photographer. And what was the photographer doing within a few yards of the terrorists in the first place? Are we supposed to believe that he just stumbled across them while they were in the act of committing murder or firing a mortar? Of course not. The photographer was present at the invitation of the terrorists, who wanted the pictures taken for propaganda purposes.
All of these suspicions were confirmed today when the AP announced that the United States military has been holding Bilal Hussein for the past five months for “imperative reasons of security.” The Army says that Hussein was captured in the company of al Qaeda terrorists:
The military said Hussein was captured with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. “He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces,” according to a May 7 e-mail from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, who oversees all coalition detainees in Iraq.
“The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities,” Gardner wrote to AP International Editor John Daniszewski.
Incredibly, the Associated Press, rather than expressing any embarrassment that it has been publishing propaganda photos taken by an apparent associate of al Qaeda in Iraq, is campaigning for Hussein’s release, saying that it is normal for journalists to have “relationships with people that others might find unsavory.”
In recent months, we have learned a great deal about the deep corruption that pervades the use of Middle Eastern stringers by the international news services. The Bilal Hussein story adds another piece to the puzzle.
UPDATE: A critic writes that this post is “misleading” because the AP is actually campaigning to have Hussein either released or charged with a crime. Fair enough; some of the AP’s statements in support of Hussein have included that qualification. However, as Nathan Goulding notes in National Review’s Media Blog, the AP’s statements have been consistently supportive of Hussein, and dismissive of the idea that his “unsavory” associations are in any way noteworthy. Moreover, I assume there are good reasons why Hussein has not been charged. The U.S. and coalition authorities are currently holding, I believe, around 13,000 Iraqi insurgents. At least until the violence subsides, I don’t believe there is any plan to charge them with crimes. I doubt that the Iraqi judicial system has the capacity to handle that volume of proceedings. So, as a practical matter, a call to either charge or release Hussein is most likely a call to release him.