February 22, 2006

SBS World Outrage

Crikey on SBS TV's Abu Ghraib world scoop:
Dateline's Abu Ghraib story is the biggest international scoop by an Australian media organisation for a long time. The story has spread like wildfire around the world, with the footage and photos running across Middle Eastern and Western TV stations and front pages worldwide. And the current affairs program has come under direct fire from the Bush administration as it criticised the program's decision to run the images.

This isn't the first time Dateline has hit world headlines; last October it broadcast images of US soldiers burning the corpses of two Taliban fighters. So did they anticipate such a massive worldwide reaction? "No, we didn't to be honest," Dateline's Executive Producer Mike Carey told Crikey. "It's an extraordinary response. It's gone everywhere. We're getting calls and emails from as far away as Hungary and Latin America, all over the world really."

"We didn't envisage that it would be like this," says Carey. "We can't have it both ways, we can't say that we didn't expect it to be as big as this and then" be accused of doing it for the publicity. "I didn't think it would create the same impact [as last time]. All we were concerned with was making sure that what we were doing was the right thing to do."

"We had hesitations over some of the images on the grounds of taste," such as the sexually explicit material, says Carey, but "the thing that really convinced us was the images of corpses…There are so many unanswered questions that we had a responsibility to show them, because of the level of depravity and unexplained questions. Surely these things should be addressed."

So how does Dateline respond to the fact that respected news outlets like The Washington Post have decided not to run the images? That's just "gutless," says Carey. "We do understand that some US magazines had the photos and have been sitting on them which I put down to self censorship."

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