Academics call removal of ISIS documents by New York Times 'unethical'

After a New York Times report in April revealed journalist Rukmini Callimachi collected thousands of ISIS documents from Iraq, several academics have put forth a petition calling the act of removing the files illegal and unethical.

Petition states Iraqi's safety at risk after sensitive information was published

A report by New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi is being criticized by some scholars who argue the decision to remove ISIS-related documents from Iraq was unethical and illegal. (Reuters)
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A New York Times report based on 16,000 pages of ISIS documents is facing backlash over the decision to remove the files from Iraq.

Reporter Rukmini Callimachi discovered the trove of so-called ISIS files with Iraqi troops who told her they burn anything that belongs to the Islamic State. She says officials knew she was removing the documents from the country. 

Several academics have launched a petition against The Times, arguing Callimachi performed an illegal act that now prevents Iraqis from researching and reconciling after years of war.

"The publication and circulation of these files is unethical as they contain sensitive information that may pose direct threats to personal safety and security of Iraqi civilians," the petition states.

The Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America have also expressed its concern in an open letter.

Middle East analyst Nasser Weddady argues if a digitized copy of the ISIS files was available, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch could have used this in trials. 1:02

To discuss this issue, The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti spoke with:

  • Sara Farhan, a doctoral candidate of Iraqi history at York University, and co-author of the petition.
  • Nasser Weddady, an independent consultant and analyst specializing in the Middle East and North Africa. He worked alongside Callimachi on the Times's report.
  • Belkis Wille, senior Iraq and Qatar researcher with the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. She's part of a team that has been watching events unfold in Iraq post-ISIS.

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.


This segment was produced by The Current's ​Jessica Linzey, Kristian Jebsen and Noushin Ziafati.

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