Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=35815
Story Retrieval Date: 5/25/2013 11:25:56 PM CST
Washington -- Two leading news organizations criticized the U.S. military Tuesday for holding two journalists in prison without charges. They worry that this practice will negatively impact newsgathering in conflict areas.
Just days after World Press Freedom Day, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the National Press Club's Freedom of the Press Committee organized a panel discussion about Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein and Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj.
"The implication of these two cases... is that journalists can be removed from the battlefield and essentially put away, held without charge, without any recourse, without any knowledge of what offense they may or may not have committed," said Joel Campagna, CPJ Middle East program coordinator.
Hussein was detained in Iraq by U.S. forces April 12, 2006. He was held at Abu-Ghraib prison for five months and is now at Camp Cropper near Baghdad's International Airport.
Al-Haj was taken at the border of Pakistan in December 2001 and later transferred to U.S custody. Today, he is imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He is protesting nearly six years of incarceration by going on a hunger strike.
"If these individuals are guilty of wrongdoing, they should be charged with a criminal offense," Campagna said. "They should be afforded an open and fair trial. If the U.S. has no intention of doing that, then they should be released."
A study done by the CPJ shows more than 100 journalists are being held in prisons around the world. Almost 10 percent have not been charged with a specific crime.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense declined an invitation to participate in the panel.