Iraqi journalist's arrest raises media freedom concerns

by Isabelle Duerme, All Headline News

The detention of Associated Press photojournalist Bilal Hussein in Iraq has raised concerns over freedom of the press. International advocacy groups claim Hussein is being held without charges, an act that violates Iraqi free press laws.

Hussein, who was arrested by the U.S. military in April 2006, is being held for suspicion of aiding terrorist groups. Officials, however, refuse to reveal evidence found against him, or the accusations that will be presented against him during his trial in Iraq.

Reporters Without Borders issued a statement, calling the vague nature of the case "disturbing and unacceptable," reported the AP. "Hussein's lawyers will have to appear in court without being able to prepare their client's defense as the U.S. authorities refuse to say in advance what evidence they have."

The situation of Hussein's detention is based on a U.N. Security resolution, which the U.S. interpreted as granting them the authority to hold Hussein, even if found not guilty by the Iraqi court.

"Provisions allow for somebody to be held as a security detainee if it's determined that they continue to be a threat to coalition forces and the Iraqi people," insisted Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

Aziz Rahim, an Iraqi state television director, called the nature of Hussein's detention "unacceptable."

"Any accusation against a journalist should be backed up by concrete and clear evidence, but Bilal was detained for a very long time without seeing such evidence," he added.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called out the shifting evidence against Hussein, and that the military "has yet to produce evidence of criminal wrongdoing."

Tom Curley, Associated Press president and chief executive, bluntly told the Guardian, "We believe he should be freed - there is no reason to hold him." Curley expressed frustration towards the "same callous disregard for the justice system," despite new leadership in the Pentagon.

article originally published at

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey