It was a classic performance by an Arab state broadcaster: one part journalism, two parts propaganda. Habits, after all, are hard to break.
“It was important to let the world know he was alright,” Amin said in defense of the interview. If she had stopped there, critics would have had a bit less ammunition.
Still, journalists in glass newsrooms might want to hesitate before lobbing verbal rocks. Let’s recap the ethics of journalism when it comes to the Middle East:
• It’s OK to air bin Laden interviews, until the White House says it’s not;
• It’s OK to show John Walker Lindh, “the American Taliban,” strapped naked to a stretcher, but images of U.S. POWs are verboten;
• And it’s wrong to show dead Americans, but it’s OK to endlessly loop video of bleeding and/or dead Gaddafi.
On the morning Gaddafi was killed, an ebullient Wolf Blitzer told Sen. John McCain that he knew the senator was pleased on “this very special day.” The look on Blitzer’s face and the celebratory tone of his network left little doubt that he—or CNN—agreed.
As I said, “basic journalistic ethics” can be a slippery thing.
Correction: We originally reporters that Gilad Shalit had spent two years in captivity. In fact, he had spent five years in captivity. The relevant sentence has been corrected. CJR regrets the error.