A group of news organizations on Friday filed a motion (pdf) in a federal court seeking the right of the public to see videotape evidence of force-feedings of a Guantanamo detainee in order to be able to "exercise democratic oversight of its Government."
The 16 news organizations, which include the McClatchy Company, First Look Media, the Guardian US, Reuters and the Washington Post, seek to intervene in the case of Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a 42-year-old Syrian man who has been held at the offshore prison for over ten years without charge, and was cleared for release in 2009. With no other recourse, he has turned to a hunger strike.
In the case in which the news outlets seek to intervene, Dhiab is seeking a stop to his forcible cell extractions and "torturous" force-feedings.
The government was ordered last month to release to Dhiab's lawyers video of his force-feedings, but the evidence is classified as "Secret" by the government and as such the public has been prevented from viewing it. Yet "the public has a qualified right under both the First Amendment and the common law to inspect and copy this evidence," the news outlets state.
Dhiab's lawyers with the charity Reprieve who have seen the video evidence described it as "extraordinarily disturbing."
"Although the Government has classified the videotapes, it is no secret that force-feeding is being used at Guantanamo; nor is there any secret regarding how it is used," the news organizations' motion states.
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"Specifically, the Press Applicants seek to unseal videotape evidence submitted in connection with petitioner’s efforts to stop the Government from forcibly feeding him, utilizing procedures that he contends constitute 'torture' and violate his rights, and that this Court has described as 'painful, humiliating and degrading,'" it adds.
"The public is entitled to view this evidence to satisfy itself of the fairness of the outcome of this proceeding and to exercise democratic oversight of its Government," the motion states.
Reprieve welcomed the court motion as a step towards lifting the veil of secrecy over what transpires at the prison.
"It’s very welcome that the U.S. media is defending Americans' right to know what is being done in their name at Guantánamo, and a scandal that the Obama administration apparently wants to keep the truth from them," Cori Crider, Reprieve attorney for Dhiab, said in a statement.
"The government keeps implying that the force-feeding tapes contain only uncontroversial material—so they ought to put up, and produce a public version of this footage, or shut up," Crider stated.