The Associated Press and other news organizations have officially taken the position that President Barack Obama should release visual proof of Osama bin Laden’s death, claiming that without this level of transparency the White House is essentially deciding what is and is not newsworthy.
In an interview with The Atlantic Wire, AP senior managing editor Michael Oreskes explained the organization’s position is that proof should be released to professional journalists, who would then decide whether to release the media or merely describe it.
“This information is important for the historical record,” he reportedly said. “That’s our view.”
AP and other news organizations filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests last week in hopes of triggering the release of visual confirmation of bin Laden’s death. After a fierce internal debate that split the president’s aides, Obama has maintained that he will not approve the release due to national security concerns.
“It is very important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of someone who was shot in the head are not floating around as incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool,” Obama said during a recent interview with CBS News. “That’s not who we are. We don’t trot out this stuff out as trophies.”
“We’re asking to see it,” AP’s Oreskes told The Atlantic Wire. “It’s about us saying we would like to make our own news judgements about news worthy material.”
Oreskes added that the AP has not decided whether or not to publish the media, should it be released.
Unlike President Obama, the Bush administration made a point of releasing images showing a number of high value targets who had been killed in military operations, like the sons of Saddam Hussein. A video of Hussein’s execution by hanging was also leaked onto the Internet by an unknown source, but it did not come from official channels.
One possible compromise solution, which parody news host Jon Stewart argued for, is showing the images to media professionals and allowing them to describe it in written reports.
“The extremists over there already hate us and I don’t know if you know this, but the Muslim world sees pretty graphic images of people we kill on purpose or accidentally all the time,” he said.
Recent polling shows that about two in three Americans agree with the president’s decision to keep the photos under-wraps.
The Pentagon has instead released several short videos, with audio removed, showing bin Laden examining media coverage about himself and speaking into the camera.
Officials claimed the footage was among data culled from the terrorist leader’s computers, which were seized during last week’s Navy SEAL raid.