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Robert Parry, Associated Press reporter who covered Iran-contra affair, dies at 68

Robert Parry was a Pulitzer Prize finalist as a reporter for the Associated Press and went on to found the Consortium for Independent Journalism.
Robert Parry was a Pulitzer Prize finalist as a reporter for the Associated Press and went on to found the Consortium for Independent Journalism. (Provided by Diane Duston via/AP)
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Robert Parry, an investigative journalist who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1985 for his Associated Press exclusives about the CIA's production of an assassination manual for Nicaraguan rebels, died Jan. 27 in Arlington, Va. He was 68.

He had recently suffered a series of strokes brought on by undiagnosed pancreatic cancer, said his wife, Diane Duston.

Mr. Parry joined the AP in 1974 and went on to work in its Washington bureau, where he covered the Iran-contra arms-for-hostages scandal as it rocked the Reagan administration. His work on the scandal brought him a George Polk Award in 1984.

Mr. Parry said he and colleague Brian Barger's stories on the scandal were censored or held from print, sometimes for weeks or months, because of a conflict of interest at the AP. The Washington bureau chief was meeting with Lt. Col. Oliver North, who served on the National Security Council and whose contacts with Nicaraguan right-wing rebels known as the contras were at the center of the scandal, in an effort to negotiate the release of Terry Anderson, an AP journalist taken hostage during Lebanon's civil war.

"AP, like the government, said the hostages would not change how we would handle the news and yet I think the evidence was that we did," Mr. Parry told The Washington Post in 1987. The AP denied that Anderson's captivity influenced its coverage of North, who oversaw hostage negotiations for the White House, but was criticized by reporters such as Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh for being too timid in its coverage of the story.

Mr. Parry left the AP in 1987 for Newsweek and then for the PBS series "Frontline," where he worked as an investigative reporter.

In 1995, frustrated with what he saw as dwindling venues for serious investigative reporting, Mr. Parry founded the Consortium for Independent Journalism. Its website,, sought to provide a home for such reporting in the early days of the Internet, although it struggled financially and relied on contributions.

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Robert Parry was born in Hartford, Conn., on June 24, 1949. He graduated from Colby College in 1971 with a bachelor's degree in English and worked in Massachusetts journalism before joining the AP.

The author of six books, Mr. Parry received honors including the Nieman Foundation's I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence and the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. In his remarks in London at the presentation of the Gellhorn Prize in 2017, Britain-based journalist John Pilger said, "Bob Parry's career has been devoted to finding out, lifting rocks — and supporting others who do the same."

Survivors include his wife, a former Associated Press newswoman; four children, Nat Parry of Copenhagen, Elizabeth Parry of Alexandria, Va., and Sam and Jeff Parry of Arlington, Va.; and six grandchildren.

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