Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death (review from February 28, 2004)

Posted by Mitchell - May 26, 2006 (entry 443)

Afghan Film
Anna Gorski
Arts & Culture: Skokie

The film “Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death,” will be shown at the Skokie Public Library after PBS affiliate WTTW Channel 11 Chicago declined to air it, despite its international newsworthy recognition.

“Essentially, self censorship is the reason” WTTW 11 wouldn’t air the film, according to Scott Sanders, secretary of Chicago Media Action, a co-sponsor of the event. It is “not in the interest of their corporate funders,” he added.

Despite repeated attempts, WTTW Channel 11 could not be reached for comment. National Public Broadcasting Headquarters responded to an email inquiry after two hours, directing a specific query to local station WTTW 11.

The film details the treatment of nearly 8,000 prisoners of war taken after the U.S. military successfully captured a Taliban-occupied fortress in Afghanistan. At that time most international media focused on the arrest of American ex-patriot John Walker Lindh.

Documentary filmmaker, journalist and former-BBC producer Jamie Doran focused on the POW ’s 20-hour trip to Sheberghan prison. “Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death” chronicles severe alleged human rights abuses committed by the U.S. military’s Afghan allies, purportedly with the military’s full knowledge and cover-up support.

The film will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, August 14 at the Skokie Public Library, 5215 Oakton St. and at 8 p.m. Friday, August 15 at Columbia College Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan Ave., in Chicago.

“Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death” is sponsored by Chicago Media Action, Chicago Filmmakers and Not In Our Name. John Heffernan, Senior Communications Associate for Physicians for Human Rights will speak after the film on Thursday night. Heffernan’s organization co-won the 1997 Noble Peace Prize for an investigation it led into the incident after discovering the mass graves in Afghanistan.

The film, which was produced in the U.K. last year, was one of several proposed to WTTW Channel 11 as part of a documentary/ live-public-forum program by about 25 peace and justice advocacy groups in March.

Mitchell Szczepanczyk, president of Chicago Media Action, said: “They (WTTW 11) gave a lot of half-hearted answers” for rejecting the proposed program. WTTW 11 seems to balk at playing films Szczepanczyk calls, “not controversial, but spirited.”

Sanders said WTTW 11 used to air public forums quarterly. He explained that forums are an effective way to motivate people because “they (the public) not only take in information, but through engaging in dialogue and asking questions, the issue becomes more personal,” making people more likely to take action.

Sanders added that the proposed program would not have been a financial burden on WTTW 11 because it would have replaced “Chicago Tonight” just one night a week, every other week.

“What’s at stake is the rule of law. If it’s okay to kill two or three thousand prisoners of war, what’s the point of claiming you’re bringing democracy by the actions in Afghanistan?” Sanders asked.

Sanders said negotiations with the network hit a “dead end” in June.

U.S. media is “increasingly excluding alternative views –as it concentrates it closes up,” Sanders said, adding that the increasing corporatization of PBS is a very serious problem.

“Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death” has been broadcast on national television in Britain, Germany, Australia and Italy and broadcasting rights have been sold to networks in a total of 24 other countries, according to the World Socialist Web Site, published by the International Committee of the Fourth International.

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