OPINION: Report treats torture-based confessions as news

NPR gives torture credibility

Good journalists don’t base their stories on highly dubious “facts.” And they try to avoid reports that will encourage violence. Unfortunately, a recent segment on NPR’s Morning Edition (10/26/07) violated both rules.

NPR Iraq correspondent Anne Garrels’ report was based around the accounts of three men who were being held prisoner by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia. The captives were supposedly “renegade” members of Sadr’s militia who said “they were trained in roadside bombs and car bombings in Iran…to attack Americans and sow suspicion and violence between Shiites and Sunnis.” The details of the prisoners’ accounts made up much of Garrels’ report, despite her noting that “the three detainees had clearly been tortured.”

“There was blood all over their clothes,” Garrels reported. “They were in such bad shape they couldn’t walk. They had to be dragged onto the chairs, and one of them was just sobbing.”

Given the brutal treatment of the three men, there is no reason to put any stock whatsoever in the claims they made in the presence of their captors. [complete article]

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