Human rights journalist shares insights

Nov. 17, 2011, 2:56 a.m.

Carol Rosenberg, recent recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for outstanding human rights reporting, spoke Wednesday and relayed some of her struggles covering events in Guantanamo Bay, where she has logged more time than any other reporter.

“Carol has been an important chronicler of the detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo, and she has important lessons to impart about that experience,” said Jim Bettinger, director of the Knight Fellowship Program, a yearlong fellowship program that attracts seasoned journalists from around the world.

Rosenberg discussed her reporting style, emphasizing that she employs a straightforward, wire service style in her writing, covering the basic facts of what happens on a day-to-day basis.

“People on the right read my stories, and people on the left read my stories; and they draw very different conclusions,” she said.

Rosenberg currently writes for The Miami Herald, which she said is the only paper that covers every hearing in Guantanamo. According to Rosenberg, the paper has a very clear reason for wanting to cover the events in Guantanamo.

“If they were going to make a prison and a court out of reach of the American people, we’re not going to allow it to be out of the reach of American journalism,” she said.

Rosenberg described the conditions in Guantanamo for both prisoners and reporters. She indicated that although the conditions for the prisoners have been getting better, the conditions for reporters are still relatively the same.

“The problem with being a reporter there is you can only show the portion they allow you to show,” she said.

Rosenberg also complained of soldiers constantly listening over her shoulder, dictating the content of her stories and accessibility of her sources.

Furthermore, Rosenberg stated that one of the greatest challenges of reporting in Guantanamo comes from the prison’s ever-changing restrictions.

“You never know what you’re allowed to see,” she said.

Rosenberg indicated that one result of the changing restrictions is that there are always new escorts for reporters. Still, Rosenberg said she did not have very much difficulty communicating with the guards and the prisoners about their experiences, which she found illuminating.

Rosenberg expressed frustration that her team was unable to account for the costs of maintaining Guantanamo. There are a total of seven camps at the base, with 171 prisoners and 1,850 federal guards, and the base costs $149 million a year, according to Rosenberg. Eighty percent of the prisoners live in a communal setting, where they eat, pray and play sports together.

In response to a question from the audience, Rosenberg described her emotional stance on reporting at the base.

“It’s not the most fun job,” she said. “There is something very satisfying knowing the place as well as I do, but there is something very frustrating about going down there.”

Rosenberg also asserted that Guantanamo Bay is vastly misunderstood and that it is “not the Guantanamo that people remember.”

The event, sponsored by the Bowen H. McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society series on Ethics and War, attracted around 50 people.

“I was expecting a more emotionally charged perspective, but we really saw how she covered the story as a journalist and was really impartial,” said Taz George ‘12. “I was also really impressed by her knowledge of the details of everyday life. . . she spent the last 10 years of her life there, so you could say she’s the number one civilian expert for that area.”


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