Video of the execution of Saddam Hussein, believed to have been recorded on a mobile phone and made widely available on the internet through sites like YouTube, provides dramatic evidence of the power of online distribution.
Unlike the official silent video, which stops short of the moment of death, the grainy images, apparently from a camera phone, depict the shambolic execution of the former Iraqi president in all its dismal dramatic detail.
The macabre footage first appeared on the web, then on the Al-Jazeera news channel and was made available to the media through the video news service of the Associated Press.
Most news networks chose not to air the video in full, but it was uploaded in countless copies on video sharing web sites such as YouTube and Google Video.
Ironically, it was uploaded in so many versions that it does not even figure among the most popular clips. It makes very uncomfortable viewing.
These eyewitness images–apparently genuine–portray a rather different scene to that represented in the official footage seen on television and as reported by many newspapers.
They are accompanied by taunting shouts from unseen observers, to which Saddam, his head in the noose, apparently responds by asking “do you consider this bravery?”
Amid chants of the names of Shia clerics, an unseen voice is heard to say “Please do not. The man is being executed. Please no, I beg you to stop”.
As Saddam begins reciting the Islamic creed the trapdoor opens and he is seen to drop. The camera swings around for a number of seconds before settling on an image of his face swinging in the noose.
The illicit video, seen on the last day of 2006, is an ironic example of how new technology has radically changed video distribution, providing a real test of editorial judgement in newsrooms around the world and one of the most graphic images of the year.