The infamous picture of a hooded prisoner in a black garb, standing on top of a box and attached to electrical wires has become a symbol of the Abu Ghraib scandal and the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of US soldiers.
That same picture is now part of an investigation to identify the subject of the scandal.
Ali al Qaissi, a 43-year old Iraqi citizen, believes he is the man in the photograph. He had filed a lawsuit, with a group of former Iraqi detainees, against his former torturers in America. He has appeared in a number of television shows and spoken about his suffering. He has even used the picture on his business card, as the president of the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons.
Two weeks ago, salon.com announced it had obtained US Army documents proving the prisoner in question is not Al Qaissi. It also published previously unseen pictures of the violations that occurred in Abu Ghraib.
According to records, Al Qaissi was indeed held in the prison. Undoubtedly, he was subjected to violent acts by US soldiers, as was the case with other prisoners. He denies seeking fame and insisted he had suffered similar punishment to that of the photograph.
Ali Al Qaissi is of course a victim, even if he lied about being the man in the photograph. This can only add more drama to the case.
The New York Times has undertaken to review the interviews and reports it had published about Ali Al Qaissi, some of which appeared on the front page. The newspaper even sent four journalists to Iraq and the region to check all the reports on this issue. It is preparing to publish the findings of the investigation.
The paper has previously reviewed a number of investigative reports written by one of its journalists. He was dismissed from the organization and the facts included in his articles were re-checked. The newspaper also apologized for a series of articles in the run up to the Iraqi war, which, it was later revealed, were based on incorrect information.
This is the crux of the matter.
Taking into consideration that it might be mistaken and that it should retract its errors and apologize for them is the essence of credibility for a newspaper. It should be adopted by all media, in a world filled with lies and propaganda, often targeted at our region.
An Arab journalist tried to uncover the truth about Al Qaissi but her editor did not think the issue deserved the effort and asked her to concentrate her efforts elsewhere!
This editor expressed a general trend in Arab journalism. The principle of accountability is shockingly weak. Until today, no Arab media has put forward any critique, however limited, of its conduct throughout the Iraq war. It is one of the most dangerous events that the Arab media has covered in a catastrophic manner.