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Pentagon bars media from transmitting prisoner photos

By The Associated Press

01.15.02

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NEW YORK — Most major news organizations abided by an order Jan. 11 from Pentagon officials not to transmit images shot the previous day of masked and chained prisoners in Afghanistan.

But CBS News, which had planned to air footage on its Jan. 11 "Early Show," then reconsidered, did include grainy clips less than 10 seconds long on the "Evening News."

CBS News "has evaluated these pictures and made a news judgment to broadcast them in a responsible way, mindful not to jeopardize national security," spokeswoman Kelli Edwards said.

CNN didn't air its footage, though it did show images shot Jan. 9 of masked prisoners.

"Restrictions on the press in wartime are nothing new, and the fact is we are on their base and subject to their rules," said network spokeswoman Megan Mahoney.

But Rob Curtis, a photographer for The Army Times who often takes photos for the Associated Press, said he objected to being barred from transmitting photos he had taken of the prisoners' departure.

"We signed papers that said we would not publish photos that endangered a military operation," Curtis said. "There are no military implications for these photos, only political."

The AP is protesting the Pentagon's action.

"We feel this is an important news event, and it is our job to provide coverage of important news events," said Vincent Alabiso, AP vice president and executive photo editor. "We see no reason that these pictures should be barred from release."

Photographers and camera crews from CNN, CBS, The Army Times and other organizations were allowed to take pictures of the 20 prisoners in Kandahar as they boarded a C-17 cargo plane for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But the journalists had to agree not to transmit the images until military officials gave permission.

Shortly after the plane left the airport, the organizations were told not to send the images.

A Pentagon spokesman said the decision was made because the Red Cross raised an objection, contending the images would violate international laws on the treatment of prisoners.

"The Geneva Convention prohibits humiliating, debasing photos," said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley. "We need to be cautious in case there is a legal action somewhere downstream."

Officials at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva said the organization had not contacted the Pentagon about photographs taken in Afghanistan.

"They may have our stance on the issue in their files but we did not raise an objection," said Vincent Lasser, a Red Cross spokesman.

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