Unscreened Footage

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If this story pans out, CNN may reap a replay of the outrage it saw when it confessed to sitting on stories about repression in Iraq:

Gooya.com is reporting that an Iranian student, Hamid, provided CNN with video of the attack on the student dormitories by the regime. The student was arrested by the regime and taken to the same prison, Evin where the Canadian/Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was tortured. Kazemi eventually died allegedly under the hands of the regime official Saeed Mortezavi, Tehran's Chief Prosecutor. The story of her murder has been international news for the past week.

But unlike Kazemi whose photos of the Evin prison remain in the hands of the regime, Hamid was successful in getting his footage to CNN. According to this report CNN is refusing to air the student's footage, claiming it would endanger his life. But since they refused to air the footage the story has not received international attention and his life is now in grave danger.

Update: CNN has denied the story.

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  1. Jesse,

    When is it appropriate to sit on news because it will endanger life and when is it appropriate to plaster the news everywhere because it will prevent the endangerment of life? We cry “Basta!” when the press tries to figure out who Salam Pax is before, during, and after the Iraq invasion because we don’t want this vital communicator to be crushed. But we cry “Bring it on!” when another victim of oppression might be saved by having his information aired.

    Yes, you might say, but Salam clearly evaded identification, which the press — shockingly — honored, while Hamid clearly wants the big repression story to be told through his smaller personal involvement, hence his care package to CNN.

    Does that distinction have a place in media rule books? Do we know that CNN’s decision not to air the story is the deciding factor in Hamid’s fate? And even if we do, is “fate reporting” what we want the establishment media to do?

    Not sure if I have a conclusion — I’ll happily admit — but I’m genuinely interested in where you’re coming from with this post.

    Thanks.

  2. Assuming the story is accurate — this is at least third-hand, and important details may be missing or inaccurate — I think CNN should run the footage, for precisely the reason you cited: Hamid himself obviously wants the footage to be broadcast, and it’s not the role of the reporter to second-guess a source about what’s in his best interests.

    Again, there may be details we don’t know. It could be, for example, that there are more lives at stake here than Hamid’s. But as laid out in the article I linked to (the only one in English that I could find), this looks bad for CNN.

  3. Wow. How revelatory. Oppression in Iraq and Iran! No one would have ever suspected! BTW, when it comes to being scum-sucking fuckwads, the Bush administration takes the cake (see their response to a proposed UN statement criticizing China for human rights abuses). T. Hartin, I am sure you just love how they coddle tyrannical thugs like the thugs who rule from Beijing.

  4. T. Hartin,

    And what of the Wall Street Journal’s long record of sucking up to tyrants?

  5. Maybe Hamid should have sent the tape to more than one news outfit if he really wanted to get the story out…

  6. Jesse Walker:

    I think you make a very good point – the deciding factor about whether or not to sit on a story for safety of a source should lie with _that particular source_. If the man risked death in the first place to have the story told, then isn’t it a reasonable conclusion that his death-defying, altruistic motives should be honored?

    However, I don’t actually think this ought to reflect badly on CNN. If it can reasonably connected to some other, more detestable motive than wanting to protect the life of a source, then that’s a horse of a different color – but making a genuine judgement call that sought to protect a man from being killed seems like something that might call for disagreement and argument, but not condemnation.

  7. “If it can reasonably connected to some other, more detestable motive than wanting to protect the life of a source”

    That’s easy – CNN has a long record of sucking up to tyrants and dictators in order to maintain their presence in country. They do it with Castro, they did it with Hussein, they do it all kinds of places including, I have no doubt, Iran.

  8. T. Hartin’s makes the relevant point. The fight against theocratic islamofascism will not be won solely with bravery on the battlefield – it will take some courage in the newsrooms of the West, too. As revelations at CNN and the BBC have made clear, the battle is as much in those newsrooms as it is in Tehran or Baghdad or New York.

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