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Amateur video dominates global news coverage

Digital video and still images came of age last week, dominating global news distribution and profoundly impacting world events. Revelations of U.S. troops abusing Iraqi prisoners followed by the globally broadcast execution of an American citizen in Iraq demonstrated that the rules have changed for newsgathering in a wired world.

Though the controversial photographs of abused Iraqi prisoners first appeared in on CBS’s 60 Minutes II, it was the instant medium of the Internet that distributed and magnified their impact within hours.

The photos and videos were taken with inexpensive digital cameras carried by ordinary U.S. soldiers, the Washington Post reported. Soldiers in Iraq are granted access to e-mail, and many have used the opportunity to send home mundane tourist snapshots of the desert and mosques.

It was through the same e-mail channel that the images of prisoner abuse were distributed and forwarded to others around the globe. Later, the execution of the American was broadcast as streaming video from a Web site in Iraq.

After the first batch of images were released, the government decided not to release other images in its possession. A government watchdog group last week asked the U.S. Department of Defense to release three CD-ROMs with additional digital photographs and video clips of prisoner abuse in Iraq.

In a Freedom of Information Act request, the Federation of American Scientists requested copies of the disks with “abuses committed against Iraqi prisoners held in the custody of U.S. government or coalition forces in Iraq.”

The group said in its request that it would widely disseminate the photographs and video on its own Web site, a move that is likely to generate additional controversy.

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