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Prison Abuse: The Media (5/20)

The controversy over the alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees began at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, but its impact has been global. Investigations have been launched in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay. Officials in Washington and in foreign capitals have reacted to the charges. And the role of press — including CBS News — in breaking and covering the affair has become part of the story.

The following are some highlights of worldwide coverage of the scandal on Thursday, May 20:

  • Several news agencies around the world led with the newly published photos of U.S. guards "smiling and giving the thumbs-up over the body of an unknown prisoner in Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail," as Agence France Presse put it. The BBC, the Daily Telegraph, El Pais and the Guardian were among those that ran the new images.
  • Other newspapers (Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe) focused on Wednesday's Congressional testimony. USA Today concentrated on Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's claim that he never saw the interrogation rules for Abu Ghraib, which a lowly captain authored. The newspaper said the generals "struggled to explain how 'interrogation rules of engagement' that they admitted could violate the Geneva Conventions were distributed — without their knowledge — to guards and intelligence officers at the largest U.S. military prison in Iraq." The New York Times honed in on Sanchez's assertion that he did not learn of the Red Cross report criticizing detention conditions until two months after it was submitted.
  • The Christian Science Monitor looked at on Iraqi reaction to the trial and sentencing of Spc. Jeremy Sivits. "From lawyers and government officials to old men sitting in coffee shops, many Iraqis demanded a trial run by international authorities or by Iraqis themselves." Die Welt and Toronto's Globe & Mail also focused on Sivits.
  • The Washington Post And Chicago Tribune reported on the testimony of Sgt. Samuel Provance, whom the Post calls "the first military intelligence soldier to speak openly about alleged abuse." The Post says Provance has claimed that interrogators told MPs "to strip down prisoners and embarrass them as a way to help 'break' them." The Tribune said Provance indicated that the 16-year-old son of a detainee "was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators."
  • Editor & Publisher obtained a detailed report of the alleged abuse by U.S. troops of three Iraqis working for Reuters and another employed by NBC News, which purportedly took place in January. "Bags were alternately placed on their heads and taken off again. Deafening music was played on loudspeakers directly into their ears and they were told to dance around the room. Sometimes when they were doing this, soldiers would shine very bright torches directly into their eyes and hit them with the torches. They were told to lie on the floor and wiggle their backsides in the air to the music. They were told to do repeated press ups and to repeatedly stand up from a crouching position and then return to the crouching position."
  • The Australian Broadcasting Company runs with allegations by Tarek Degoul, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, who says two Australian citizens held at Gitmo – Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks – have been beaten by U.S. troops. "But Prime Minister John Howard has questioned the reliability of that claim." The Sydney Morning Herald also featured the story.
  • Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reports on a Tehran protest against U.S. abuses in Iraq, saying "familiar shouts of 'down with the U.S." were heard as Iranians " took to the streets of the capital this morning carrying banners and placards showing their anger and despise for the U.S. and British forces found to have inhumanly abused Iraqi prisoners with the consent of their governments that claim to be champions of human rights and democracy."
  • Chinese state media reported that the prison scandal has undercut U.S. authority on human rights. "Washington certainly has a right to express itself, but it can neither force other countries to take its opinion seriously nor discourage them from criticizing human rights violations by the United States."
  • On the British political front, Conservative party leader Michael Howard writes in the Independent that Prime Minister Tony Blair needs to be more candid about policy differences between him and President Bush over Iraq. "The Government has been less than sure-footed. There has been a lack of clarity, lack of competence and lack of candor," Howard writes. He claims that Blair's handling of the abuse scandal is a case in point.
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