AP president: US arrests journalist in Iraq to 'control' information
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday March 19, 2008

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Associated Press president Tom Curley says his news organization does not buy the government's argument that one of its photographers arrested in Iraq was working on behalf of the enemy, and he alleged the US is rounding up journalists in an attempt to control information.

"To say the least, we see things very differently," Curley commented dryly, regarding photographer Bilal Hussein, who was arrested two years ago and remains in military custody.

Noting that at least a dozen other Iraqi photographers have been detained or arrested, Curley stated, "It's impossible not to conclude that the words and pictures these journalists produced were considered unhelpful to the war effort and that their arrests would have served a broader strategy of information control."

Curley also called on journalists to demand that all the presidential candidates make a commitment to reversing a directive issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft shortly after September 11 that radically restricted the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

Ashcroft's memo stated, "When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records."

Curley told the National Press Club, "When a matter of public policy poses a straight-up choice between the public's rights of access to government and a government effort to infringe or even narrow those rights, journalists cannot pretend to be disinterested observers."

"This is the moment to make it clear to all the presidential candidates how important reversal of the Ashcroft directive is to us and to the people," Curley continued. "We need to ask the candidates at every opportunity ... whether they are willing to appoint an attorney general willing to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law that protects the people's right to know what their government is doing."

This video is from The Associated Press<, broadcast March 18, 2008.