Inaugural I.F. Stone Hall of Fame inductee Jeremy Scahill described his experiences in journalism as more than a typical job during the 6th annual independent media awards held at Ithaca College.
The newest award winner did not get the typical journalism education. In fact he does not have a degree. Scahill was enrolled in the University of Wisconsin for less than a year before dropping out, but explains that he has not missed out on a journalism education. “I received my undergraduate degree painting with Phil Berrigan,” a peace activist who advocated for reform during protests down through the east coast, and “I received my graduate degree with Amy Goodman,” Scahill said
. Though he has no official degree, the experiences he has gathered with successful journalists have aptly prepared him for his reporting, he argues.
Scahill is likely most well known for his documentary “Dirty Wars” that uncovered the infringement of simple human rights by a secret military organization called the Joint Special Operation Command (JSOC). Investigations led Scahill to Anwar al Awlaki, an American citizen preaching Islam and living in Yemen, was targeted as a possible terror suspect, but was never officially charged before members of his family and he himself were killed by a JSOC team. According to one member of al Awlaki’s family who survived, before the JSOC team left the scene they dug out the bullets from the lifeless bodies of his family with knives.
The reporting of the practice of JSOC in Dirty Wars directly questioned United States foreign policy from George W. Bush up to the current U.S. President Barack Obama.
“How America treats it’s own citizens, is a precursor of how they will treat non-American citizens,” Scahill said. In transition he then spoke of a independent journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who reported on United States clandestine military missions inside of Yemen. In June 2010 he was kidnapped and beaten by National Security Agency (NSA) officials who told him to “shut up” and to stop his reporting on the covert wars.
But this would not stop Shaye’s reporting. The moment after being released Abdulelah Haider Shaye went on live television to report what had happened to him.
U.S. officials attempted to discredit Shaye’s work by claiming the money that the journalist earned for his reporting was going directly to terrorist group al-Queda. News publications stopped having him on their shows because they were concerned they were funding a terrorist group.
After this accusation, Shaye was held in secret prison camps for 35 days where he was exposed to psychological torture and abuse. Without meeting with his lawyer, Shaye was sentenced to five years in prison without any document to prove him as a financial supporter of al Queda.
Barack Obama called the Yemen leader to assure that Shaye remained in prison. Evidence did not justify the captivity of the independent journalist, but apparently suspicions could.
Although Scahill’s reporting could not keep Shaye out of federal prison, it did raise awareness and cause massive press freedom protests.
His work has been featured for Democracy Now!, Pacifica radio, The Nation and he is currently an investigative writer for The Intercept. To which he says he will likely be completing 6-8 investigative stories every year and may end up working with documentary film-maker Laura Poitras on her future films.
“Journalism is not a profession; journalism is not a profession; journalism is a way of life,” Scahill said.