AP's Conflict of Interest on Bilal Hussein

There is one current story in Iraq that has attracted the full attention of the Associated Press, and that is the case of Bilal Hussein, an AP photographer and terrorism suspect. The AP report on Hussein's hearing yesterday leaves out the fact that Hussein was arrested with a known al Qaeda terrorist... one of but many troubling aspects of the news organization's decision to forego objective news reporting in favor of self-serving advocacy in a clear and pervasive conflict of interest.

The Associated Press, as an involved party in this case, should recuse themselves from reporting on Hussein's trial.

According to The Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles:

In the 21st century, that news is transmitted in more ways than ever before – in print, on the air and on the Web, with words, images, graphics, sounds and video. But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news.

That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise.

It means we always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information – not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable.

It means we don't plagiarize.

It means we avoid behavior or activities that create a conflict of interest and compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action.

It means we don't misidentify or misrepresent ourselves to get a story. When we seek an interview, we identify ourselves as AP journalists.

It means we don’t pay newsmakers for interviews, to take their photographs or to film or record them.

It means we must be fair. Whenever we portray someone in a negative light, we must make a real effort to obtain a response from that person. When mistakes are made, they must be corrected – fully, quickly and ungrudgingly.

And ultimately, it means it is the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that these standards are upheld. Any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously.

AP editor Kim Gamel cannot claim to be avoiding bias and a conflict of interest when interviewing AP spokesman Paul Colford about the trial of AP employee Bilal Hussein.

In what alternate universe is it acceptable for a journalist to interview a senior staffer in the same news organization about a fellow employee?

Gamel cannot claim to be objective and retain the ability to "report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action" when Gamel is reporting upon the Associated Press.

Whether or not Bilal Hussein is guilty of terrorism-related charges is a matter for the Iraqi criminal justice system to decide.

That the Associated Press is in violation of their own stated values and principles is readily apparent.

Just don't expect them to admit it.

Cross-posted at Confederate Yankee.

Iraq War on Terrorism Media Bias Debate Military Crime Associated Press Media Business Media Scandals Journalistic Issues Kim Gamel

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