Prosecutorial Discretion

Friday, February 13, 2009


When it comes to investigative reporting of criminal activity, news organizations have traditionally worked parallel to, not in collaboration with, law enforcement, lest journalists be viewed as agents of the government. Why then is NBC ambushing alleged war criminals with foreign prosecutors in tow? Goucher College president Sanford Ungar discusses the day a news crew arrived on his campus.

Comments [10]

David from Rhode Island

Re: Chuck [9] -

Not really

Feb. 16 2009 07:42 AM
chuck thompson from Anchorage

RE: David [7] -
See what I mean?

Feb. 16 2009 12:34 AM
Nour from San Diego

How heartbreaking, hearing Alison Des Forge's name like that, practically the day of her death. I'm guessing the show was fully edited by Thursday. Probably the last media citation that refers to her alive.

Feb. 15 2009 07:17 PM
David from Rhode Island

Hey Chuck - In most cases, responding to someone's comment is about the story. My response to Barrett certainly was. Besides, if a purpose of these kinds of postings is to provide various opinions and bring facts to light that otherwise wouldn't be known, therefore making people reading them more informed, it wouldn't make much sense to let an incorrect comment on the story go unchallenged. But then, you are too busy digging into the crimes of the Bush administration to worry about stuff like this, anyway.

Feb. 15 2009 07:11 PM
wonkguy from bethesda, MD

I understand the point that OTM and Mr. Ungar are trying to make here but I am not sure this is the best case for them. On local news all across this country every night there are examples of the twisted marriage between news and law enforcement that could have made this point better.

Feb. 15 2009 12:10 PM
Aliza Felix from New York City

How sad that Alison Des Forges, mentioned in this story, died in the Continental Airlines flight 3407 which crashed near Buffalo, NY on February 13, 2009.

Feb. 15 2009 10:36 AM
chuck thompson from Anchorage

I'm of the opinion that OTM should introduce a policy to only entertain comments that address the original story, not those which comment on other people's comments.

Once a thread devolves into a series of tête-à-têtes, the entire discussion morphs into an unseemly shouting match.

We all have opinions and we're given a chance to offer them, which is fine, but once we've said our piece, we should read opinions that may differ from ours in respectful silence and just STF up.

Feb. 15 2009 12:15 AM
David from Rhode Island

I don't pretend to be very informed on the situation in Rwanda beyond what a person who reads and listens to a lot of news would be. However, I think Barrett is a little off base here. From what I can gather, Munyakazi isn't denying the deaths took place, or even that they are horiffic. He is calling into question the description of the events, and it is not merely a game of semantics. Genocide, such as the holocaust, is when one side slaughters a relatively powerless other side(s). If there are huge deaths during a civil war on both sides, that is not genocide (e.g. the US Civil War, which as a percentage of males of reproductive age was a massive loss of life, but no one would claim that was genocide). The use of one term versus the other is not trivial.

Now I am not saying that Munyakazi is right or that there is even a reasonable basis for his description. I don't know the relative number of deaths of Hutus and Tutsis and the progression of events. It may be that his take on it is academically dishonest. Wouldn't be the first time academia coddled people like that. Or it may be that there is merit to his claim. Up to a point, that is what academic inquiry is supposed to be about.

Feb. 14 2009 06:52 PM
Barrett McCormick from Milwaukee, WI

In the course of your interview with Sanford Ungar, he said that Leopold Munyakazi claimed that the events in Rwanda were a civil war but not a genocide. Mr. Ungar said that this sort of controversial view is a normal part of academic life. If Mr. Munyakazi had said that there were not as many Jewish deaths in Europe during WWII as generally reckoned and that the deaths that had occurred were just a part of that war rather than a genocide, it seems very doubtful that Mr. Ungar could have been so nonchalant or that you would have allowed his nonchalance to pass without comment or challenge. What is the difference between denying the Holocaust and denying the Rwandan genocide? Why, on 'On the Media' is one acceptable and the other not?

Feb. 14 2009 04:49 PM
David from Rhode Island

Isn't it considered a bedrock practice in journalism to disclose anything that might have even the appearance of conflict or impropriety when doing a story? Unless I missed it, Bob and OTM never disclosed that Sanford Ungar, currently the president of Goucher and the interviewee in this story, was with NPR for 3 years. They did say he was host of All Things Considered as a line buried in the story, but never say that ATC is an NPR program. You cannot assume everyone knows that, and in any case it should be disclosed as a separate disclaimer at the beginning (preferably) or end of the story, or even both if the story is long enough. OTM would excoriate a conservative publication for this kind of oversight. Oh wait, they have. Shame on you Bob.

Feb. 14 2009 12:57 PM

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