A media blackout on detailing the exact number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay has been put in place because the protest was too successful at generating media attention, a public affairs official has told Al Jazeera.
Detainees at the controversial detention center launched the strike to protest their conditions and the fact that many of them have been held without charge for more than a decade, though scores have been cleared for release.
The dramatic protest has been successful in generating headlines across the globe, and at one time more than 100 prisoners were involved as daily updates were issued by camp officials. But with the number of protesters dwindling, military officials last week made the decision to stop releasing figures for those remaining on hunger strike — even when specifically asked by journalists.
“It’s been a self-perpetuating story,” said Cmdr. John Filostrat, director of public affairs for Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, in an interview with Al Jazeera at the base. “It’s (the strikers') desire to draw attention to themselves, and so we’re not going to help them do that.”
The hunger strike, which peaked in June, helped pressure President Barack Obama into repeating a previously stated aim of shutting the prison, which now holds 162 inmates.