- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

Media critics and Internet bloggers are questioning the credibility of an Associated Press source in Iraq, claiming that “police captain Jamil Hussein” does not exist, though he has been cited in 60 AP dispatches over the past two years.

Two of the skeptics — syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin and former CNN news chief Eason Jordan — say they will go to Iraq to find the elusive Capt. Hussein in hopes of proving that the venerable wire service was either practicing shoddy journalism or had been dangerously duped by a media-savvy terrorist or enemy agent.

Mrs. Malkin says she intends to talk with U.S. troops about press coverage of the war, particularly the frequent reliance of wire services on local freelance journalists and photographers.

AP has issued two statements standing by its stories, though Capt. Hussein has yet to step forward. “What we’ve said previously stands,” AP spokesman Jack Stokes said yesterday.

Later yesterday, AP reported that the Iraqi Interior Ministry acknowledged the existence of the captain, whose name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the press.

Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who previously denied there was any such police employee as Capt. Jamil Hussein, told the news agency that Capt. Hussein is an officer assigned to the Khadra police station.

Brig. Khalaf offered no explanation yesterday for why the ministry initially denied Capt. Hussein’s existence, other than to say that its first search of records failed to turn up his full name. He declined to say how long the ministry had known of its error and why it had made no attempt over the past six weeks to correct the public record.

The controversy began Nov. 24 when the AP ran a particularly grisly account from Baghdad. A half-dozen Sunni men were doused with gasoline and burned alive outside a mosque by a rival militia faction, unchallenged by Iraqi troops, Capt. Hussein said. Neither the U.S. military nor the Iraqi government could confirm the incident.

A day later, the Internet blog site FloppingAces.net challenged AP on the story, joined by other bloggers, including Newsbusters.org and Confederate Yankee (https://confederateyankee.mu.nu). Other bloggers combed through Hussein-sourced stories for discrepancies.

Bloggers previously discovered that Reuters news agency, for example, used photographs of a U.S. bombing of Iraq, doctored with computer software by a freelance photographer to make the attack look worse than it was.

Editor and Publisher (E&P;) and the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) joined the Capt. Hussein fray, along with Mr. Jordan, who resigned from CNN in 2005 after claiming during a press symposium that U.S. troops were targeting journalists. He has since founded his own news service and Web site (www.iraqslogger.com).

E&P; Editor Greg Mitchell says he will continue to follow developments. An anonymous wag created the Captain Jamil Hussein Blog (https://jamilhussein.com), advising readers, “If you are a Hollywood celebrity or agent please contact me.”

“If the public finds that some stringer has made up a story from Iraq, I worry that it can call other accounts into question,” said CJR’s Paul McCleary, who has asked AP to produce the “phantom” police captain, though not at the cost of endangering the source, he said.

“This is an indicator that times have changed for big news organizations,” Mr. McCleary said. “In the past, AP could have ignored these charges. But that won’t work anymore. If Jordan, Malkin and others actually go over to Iraq to get to the bottom of it all, there could be a real media firestorm.”

This story is based in part on wire service dispatches.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide