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Aggressive digital age media is fraught with danger

By ERICK WEMPLE

Publication: The Day

Published May 05. 2013 4:00AM

El Houssein Barhoum is the father of one of the young men depicted on the April 18 cover of the New York Post. "Bag Men," read the headline, with this explanation: "Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon."

"These two" had nothing to do with the Boston Marathon bombings. As a result, Barhoum is talking to lawyers about his options.

"A lot of people, they tell me that's your right to sue them," says Barhoum, who immigrated from Morocco with his family eight years ago.

The son in the photo, Salah Barhoum, a 16-year-old track athlete, sleeps one or two hours per night these days, says El Houssein Barhoum, and sometimes "refuses to go to school."

"He says, 'I don't want people to ask me a lot of questions,'" the father reports.

Before the photo hit the New York Post, it circulated on the Internet, a scary development that prompted Salah Barhoum to meet with authorities to clear his name. Following all the attention, "We were just scared to go outside," says El Houssein Barhoum, who says he works at a Cosi restaurant in Boston.

"My future is based on my kids, so when you see your future is like really like the destruction of your kids' future, so how can you feel? My capital is my kids. If something happens to them, it happens to me, too."

Asked if the New York Post had apologized for the high-profile photograph, El Houssein Barhoum said it hadn't.

"They should apologize on the newspaper," he said. "They should write something on the newspaper, not between us. If they make a bad image of your son, they should make a good image just to correct."

The New York Post did publish a story saying that the kids had been "cleared."

The newspaper did not respond to a request for comment.

Erick Wemple blogs for The Washington Post on media issues.

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