Media outlets won't show video of American beheaded | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Media outlets won't show video of American beheaded

PTI | ByAssociated Press, New York
May 12, 2004 12:52 PM IST

Video of an American civilian beheaded by an al-Qaida-affiliated group was deemed too gruesome to air by many media outlets Tuesday, including some prominent networks in the Arab world.

Video of an American civilian beheaded by an al-Qaida-affiliated group was deemed too gruesome to air by many media outlets Tuesday, including some prominent networks in the Arab world.

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Several television networks, including CNN and MSNBC in the United States, showed pictures of a bound and frightened Nick Berg, with five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks standing behind him.

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The video, posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site, went on to show the men cutting Berg's head off and then holding it before the camera. Berg's body was found in Baghdad on Saturday. Many media outlets likened it to the video of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's 2002 execution. In both cases, snippets of the video with the victim still alive were widely shown, but none of the actual killing.

"The news story itself is strong enough," said Jihad Ballout, spokesman for Al-Jazeera television, an Arabic-language satellite station based in Qatar. "To show the actual beheading is out of the realm of decency."

One of Al-Jazeera's competitors, the Arab news station Al-Arabiya, showed a brief snippet without the beheading. The United States' ABC, CBS and NBC broadcast networks said they did not plan to show anything beyond the opening shot of Berg alive on their evening news programs.

"It's a pretty clear call for us," said Jon Banner, executive producer of ABC's "World News Tonight." "I think the viewer will understand what happened to Mr. Berg. They won't have to sit through the graphic images."

Steve Capus, executive producer of NBC's "Nightly News," said it was one of the worst things he had ever seen.

"I saw it from start to finish and I wish I didn't have to," Capus said. "It's a horrifying, sadistic act of murder that is drawn out."

Peter Koeleman, director of photography at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, said it was chilling enough just to see pictures of Berg sitting before his captors.

"We always say, `What if his family member lives here?"' Koeleman said. "It's such a cruel thing they did to him. There's so much impact in seeing him helplessly sitting there, it sent shivers down my spine. I didn't need to have it in my face." Similarly, Bob Keane, a managing editor at Newsday on New York's Long Island, said the newspaper would not show images of the beheading.

"The story is gruesome enough," Keane said. "We'll leave much of it to people's imaginations. If people are curious, they can go to the Web site."

Associated Press Television News, which provides news pictures to 500 subscribers worldwide, distributed video of the full beheading. The video was preceded by a printed warning that lasted a full minute: "Warning! Man is beheaded on camera, extremely graphic footage."

APTN is told repeatedly by subscribers to provide them with as much news material as possible, and let the individual stations decide for themselves what to air, said Sandy MacIntyre, APTN's head of news.

The material was not included in a separate news feed that some stations put directly on the air, MacIntyre said. The AP works as both a wholesaler of news to its members and also disseminates news to the public itself.

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