Ever since the detention center in Guantanamo Bay Cuba opened its doors four years ago, some 1000 journalists have visited the facility but were unable to collect enough information about more than 400 detainees whose fate have yet to be clarified.
The most disturbing incident to have taken place was the suicide of three detainees, two weeks ago. The death warranted a special follow-up from the media but this has yet to materialize…
The Pentagon, which is responsible for running the camp, dealt with the suicides by banning journalists, whose visits to Guantanamo Bay were already severely restricted. This ban, even if temporary, only adds to the controversy surrounding Camp Delta . How can we forget the restrictions that continue to be imposed on visiting journalists? They are forbidden from speaking to detainees, even if the latter were willing to interact with them; they are forbidden from taking pictures or discovering the detainees’ true circumstances. The Pentagon’s justification for the ban, when it alleged that prison guards were very busy investigating the incident, was no more than a feeble pretext.
News about the suicides remains incomplete, with details and images of the deaths unavailable. Our knowledge was limited to news headlines and peoples’ reactions, between those who justified the deaths and those who condemned Camp Delta’ illegality and inhumanity.
Representatives from ten media institutions were meant to attend the trial of ten detainees accused of crimes against humanity but, after the suicides, the trial session was postponed and the journalists were forced to leave the military base in Cuba.
When the U.S administration established Guantanamo Bay, in breach of the Geneva conventions and the rights of detainees and prisoners of war, it benefited from a lack of media coverage. At the time, the media was still focusing on the death of more than 3000 civilians on September 11, 2001.
The footage of the three planes striking the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, as well as the subsequent images of Americans running away in fear, covered with ash and debris, were very powerful. They served to silence the voice opposed to the establishment of a detention center in Guantanamo Bay.
Months and years have since passed… the Twin Towers’ collapse is no longer as dominant in our imagination, not because the events were unimportant but due to the series of American mistakes, to the extent that the current administration is no longer able to convince public opinion, at home and abroad, that the men detained in Guantanamo Bay represent an imminent danger.
Camp Delta is no longer a black mark on the US administration’s record. The restrictions on media coverage are also no longer justifiable.