Freedom of speech and expression is something that is extremely cherished among Americans. Whether we express our love for it consciously by speaking about it and its need for expansion, or inadvertently honor it by simply using it as a means to speak our minds, Americans love freedom of speech and expression.
However, recently there was an inexcusable breach of this sacred contract between Americans and their government, leaving one photographer for the Associated Press newswire behind bars and leaving a deep scar in the heart of American values.
According to an article from the Associated Press, Sept. 19, Iraqi photojournalist Bilel Hussein is being held without charges by the United States. On Sunday his colleagues who had been working with him called for charges to officially be made against him so that he can defend himself or for his immediate release.
The Pentagon supports the decision to hold the photographer without charges, claiming he was aiding insurgents in Iraq when he was detained.
Temporarily detaining people seen with insurgents may be necessary for soldiers to remain safe. If not, insurgents could simply waltz around with a camera or notepad as a disguise. But holding a proven journalist captive for five months without charging him or her with anything is an excessive and abusive use of power.
Journalists are forced to show both sides of the story, or at least the good ones are morally compelled to. This effort toward objectivity requires them to portray, whether visually or verbally, all perspectives of any issue. That includes the people we don’t necessarily agree with.
Hussein had an edge in portraying the war, a side the Pentagon has openly defied with vehement opposition to Iraqi television stations, Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi Television. Hussein and Middle Eastern television stations were able to portray the human cost of the war and openly did so, while embedded American journalists stuck to the military stories.
As portrayed in American media, unlike American soldiers, insurgents aren’t as discriminatory with who they harm. While a journalist to most American soldiers is as benign as a ladybug, insurgents have captured and gruesomely beheaded many American reporters, and American reporters risk a lot deviating from the soldiers with whom they are embedded.
This puts tremendous pressure on those journalists who the insurgents and terrorist organizations don’t want, namely the Iraqi and Middle Eastern ones. These journalists are neither part of the Iraq insurgency movement nor Americans to whom insurgents are “sending a message,” leaving them relatively free from these kinds of threats.
These are the journalists who are obligated to tell the world the other side of the story, the Iraqi perspective and the insurgent perspective. Being seen with insurgents is part of that price. Hussein needs to face charges or be let go of instead of being held indefinitely for being seen with insurgents.
The use of excessive policing and censoring has gone largely unchecked since the attacks on Sept. 11, and this is just another example of the excessive, unnecessary actions the Bush administration has taken in the name of national security. Hopefully this blunder will draw attention to a much neglected, yet defended aspect of our government.