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Peter Maass @maassp
, 21 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
Should news organizations publish videos that show executions by terror groups or state forces? The Intercept today is publishing a horrifying video from Cameroon that other news outlets have refrained from sharing. Here's why we're doing it.…
It's a hard call and what we decided is not a criticism of others. I'm writing this thread to explain our reasoning, and to draw attention to what happened. The executions were apparently carried out by military forces from a key U.S. ally, Cameroon.
Three factors coalesced for us: the horrifying execution of women and children, its connection to the United States, and the fact that an authenticated and translated version of the full video was not available to the public.
Reporter @nickturse obtained the video from a reliable source. Versions of it had been shared on social media but as far as we could tell, no major news outlet had published it. Most showed screenshots or snippets that stopped before the killings (which is understandable).
The video is horrifying. A human rights researcher whom Turse interviewed described it as "one of the most disturbing videos I have ever seen in my career."
Our story opens with a description of the video's first moments. "A soldier walks alone down a dirt road with an automatic rifle strapped to his back. It's an innocuous beginning to a disturbing video."
In this thread, I am not going to show any graphic images or graphic clips from the executions. But I will describe, as other publications have, how the killings began. I will show two images that are not graphic, though they are utterly terrifying in their own way.
As you watch the video, you think, No, these soldiers are not going to do that. But then one of them instructs the young girl, who is perhaps seven years old, to stand by her mother. "Yes. Little girl, come here," he says.
Then he uses her black shirt to blindfold her.
Turse's story describes what happens after the first round of gunfire. Nothing can prepare you for it.
Cameroon's government initially called the video "fake news." But after Amnesty International published an investigation earlier this month, several soldiers were reportedly arrested.…
That's not the end of the story. It's the beginning of another one.
Cameroon is a crucial U.S. ally in Africa. It receives significant political and military support from Washington. A major U.S. drone base is located in the north of the country, and Joshua Hammer wrote about it for The Intercept in 2016.…
But Cameroon's security forces have a long record of abuse in their campaigns against Boko Haram and against protesters in the part of the country that is English-speaking.…
This connects to the U.S. Last year, Nick Turse wrote about Cameroonian soldiers torturing and killing prisoners at a military facility, Salak, where U.S. soldiers and private contractors were based for drone operations.…
Despite those abuses, U.S.-Cameroonian ties remain close. The U.S. has called for Cameroon to investigate the new execution video, but that's all. Washington has a long and unfortunate history of ignoring abuses committed by its allies.
These considerations factored into our decision to publish the video (and translate it -- the dialogue is in French). The American public should be able to see, horrifying as it is, what an ally's military forces are doing.
If another news outlet in the U.S. had published the video, there would have been less reason for us to. But it needed to be done by at least one of us.
Just a final few thoughts. The Intercept is not a large news organization; we have about 50 journalists. We can't report on everything in the world, so we try to focus on issues or ideas or places that we think are under-covered and need more attention.
The U.S. drone war in Africa is one of those issues, and Cameroon is central to it. We've published a number of investigative articles on Cameroon (see tweets above), and also Niger, another staging point for drone warfare. Here's one by @joepenney.…
That's it. If you've gotten this far, thank you. Please let us know what you think, and please share this thread and particularly Nick Turse's story, where the execution video is embedded.…
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