Rusty has the pics and makes an important point about the timespan involved here. Does the AP’s Statement of News Values and Principles permit propaganda shots? Let’s see. Under “Conflicts of Interest”:
AP employees must avoid behavior or activities – political, social or financial – that create a conflict of interest or compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action.
And under “Political Activities”:
Editorial employees are expected to be scrupulous in avoiding any political activity, whether they cover politics regularly or not. They may not run for political office or accept political appointment; nor may they perform public relations work for politicians or their groups.
Judge for yourself from the photos whether they constitute PR work. Best case scenario: The AP’s stringer was taken hostage and forced to document the killings, which would explain why he didn’t interfere but wouldn’t explain why the AP chose to run photos shot under duress, i.e. not “uninfluenced.” Worst case scenario: He’s a Taliban sympathizer and went willingly to the scene with the AP’s blessing, a possibility that isn’t quite as far-fetched as it should be. The question is why these shots seem so offensive when conservative blogs and milblogs themselves run images of jihadi propaganda all the time — as counter-propaganda, to document the enemy’s brutality. (The ultimate example is the footage of jumpers on 9/11.) Partly it’s the suspicion that the AP’s purported ethic of objectivity amounts to nonjudgmentalism; partly it’s the implicit legitimacy conferred on the Taliban by the photos, as though they’re no more or less entitled to do this than the Iraqi government was in executing Saddam. But mainly it’s the fear of a perverse incentive, a limited risk when blogs show jihadi clips to small audiences of like-minded readers but a mighty sizable one when there’s a major wire service right there in the enemy’s camp ready to beam out snuff to the world. Exit question: Why publish them? And why, after the Bilal Hussein fiasco, don’t they have specific guidelines for dealing with obvious propaganda displays?