Clarification on the coverage of the government’s release of the names and photos of suspected war criminals

August 4, 2011

As with most stories that pose legal and ethical questions, our reporting on the government's release of the names and photos of the 30 suspected war criminals has evolved as the story has unfolded.

In deciding whether to publish names and identities of suspects who have not been charged, our policy asks us to "carefully weigh the public interest against the consequences to a reputation before disclosing the identity of a suspect in a police investigation."

That said, we can and often will publish photos and identities if we feel it is in the public interest.

And, in fact, that is exactly what we are doing. We have published and broadcast many stories in the past week that reveal both the photos and names of suspects. And in this case, we are linking directly to the government's web page that shows all 30 men. This is no different than the approach taken by other news web sites.

In the initial hours of this story, we weighed the publishing of the names and photos against the public interest, the initial absence of any information about the individuals and their alleged crimes, and the privacy concerns expressed by some government agencies. We decided not to publish photos but did cover the story, and the web page that had been created.

As we learned more about the individuals, through our own journalism or through information released after they were captured, we did publish names and identities, and began linking directly to the government site.

We believe that it is important to try and find out as much as we can about the background of these men: the allegations against them, how they got into Canada and how they have eluded capture. Digging behind the headlines with diligence and independence is the value that a public broadcaster can and should provide.

In fact, this kind of investigative journalism on our part has in the past shed important light on suspected war criminals living anonymously in Canada.

Our work on this and stories like it will continue.

For additional information, please contact:
  • Jennifer McGuire
    General Manager and Editor in Chief, CBC News

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