Star CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward worked with al-Qaeda “media man” Bilal Abdul Kareem to gain access to her “heroes on the ground.”
By (((Max Blumenthal))) [son of Sidney Blumenthal], Ben Norton / AlterNet
On June 16, an American media activist living in rebel-held Syrian territory sat down before a camera to vent his frustration with a former employer. Bilal Abdul Kareem described how he and his online outlet, On the Ground News, had been contracted by CNN to film the documentary Undercover in Syria.
“This was with CNN and their correspondent Clarissa Ward, which I have big-time respect for, big-time respect as a journalist, as a person,” Abdul Kareem remarked.
With a sardonic grin, Abdul Kareem described how he was slighted: “This Undercover in Syria, you can Google it — it won the prestigious Peabody Award, and it won the prestigious Overseas Press Club Award, which are basically the highest awards in journalism for international reporting. Now, [CNN] barely mentioned my name! I’m telling you, somehow CNN must have forgotten that I was the one that filmed it, I guess they forgot that.”
Indeed, Abdul Kareem’s name was a mere footnote in the Peabody Awards press release on its honoring of CNN. The organization praised Clarissa Ward for “[going] undercover into northern Syria to document Russian influence on the fighting and to navigate the ongoing devastation,” but credited Abdul Kareem only in small print, despite the fact that he was responsible for providing CNN with its on-the-ground footage.
At the April 2017 ceremony where the network’s Undercover in Syria won the Overseas Press Club Award, CNN president Jeff Zucker was on hand to deliver the keynote address. CNN later touted the award in a press release that celebrated the access Ward was granted to eastern Aleppo by the Islamist insurgents that had controlled it. The network noted that her work resulted in her being invited to testify before the United Nations Security Council. But CNN made no mention of Abdul Kareem’s role in the special.
Contrary to Abdul Kareem’s claim that CNN had simply “forgotten” him, the network may have had reason to airbrush him out of its public relations material. The man Ward contracted to take her into rebel-controlled territory was well established as one of the top English-language propagandists for al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, along with other extremist groups fighting the Syrian government.