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You report, we kill you
June 15, 2003 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Turning the tanks on the reporters The Observer's Phillip Knightley writes that Iraq will go down as the war when journalists seemed to become a target. Predicted here, discussed "in progress" here. The BBC, Al-Jazeera, and the US Committee to Protect Journalists thought it prudent to find out from the Pentagon what steps they could take to protect their correspondents if war came to Iraq... All three organisations concluded that the Pentagon was determined to deter western correspondents from reporting any war from the 'enemy' side; would view such journalism in Iraq as activity of 'military significance', and might well bomb the area.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly (25 comments total)

 
It would later turn out that Al Jazeera actually _was_ working for the enemy, CNN had been complicit in a cover up of mass murder not witnessed since the time of Duranty. The BBC was so biased against the coalition that the British Navy turned it off. Small wonder the Pentagon has limited patience for them.
posted by swerdloff at 11:42 AM on June 15, 2003


(that doesn't excuse them from targetting journalists, but there's a limit beyond which journalism becomes propoganda, and it's a limit which I am not qualified to comment on, but once that limit is crossed, it's no longer journalism, it's aid and comfort. A free press isn't free to blatantly lie.)
posted by swerdloff at 11:43 AM on June 15, 2003


swerdloff:

Al Jazeera = terrorist, says a Weekly Standard columnist

CNN = Manson Family, says you

BBC = bad, say the British sailors

I guess we'd better stick with FoxNews

Small wonder the Pentagon has limited patience for them.

yeah, they should just kill those traitors and get that over with, right?

the British Navy turned it off
so what? if the military doesn't like it, then it's bad? says who?
like, I bet that the Pentagon Papers weren't really a major hit in the Pentagon, nor the Watergate stuff had many happy readers in the White House. do you like your journalism with a government stamp of approval?


A free press isn't free to blatantly lie

you're totally right, the FoxNews cheerleaders are lying all the time, they shouldn't do that
posted by matteo at 12:30 PM on June 15, 2003


The Navy might not even have turned it off. God bless The Sun, aka The Stun.
posted by squealy at 12:43 PM on June 15, 2003


Actually, no, Matteo, there was a huge scandal surrounding the whole CNN debacle - they did indeed cover up mass murder by Hussein and let two of their own journalists die by his administration's hands just so that they could retain their 'insider' status with the Iraqi government.

They finally admitted this shortly after the shooting died down/before the war was declared 'over'. Surprised you don't remember. Link WAS posted a MeFi story at some point.
posted by Ryvar at 12:47 PM on June 15, 2003


The link about CNN isn't working for me. Could someone repost a working link? thanks.
posted by Akuinnen at 1:10 PM on June 15, 2003


Ryvar/swerdloff-

Initially, what the Weekly Standard or the British Navy thinks about a given source is immaterial.

If CNN and the BBC are indeed such nefarious sources, how can we account for their being given "embedded" slots with the military? Again, this aside, a given journalist's credibility is also immatierial when we are discussing a policy of killing those who impede political expediency.

It sounds like the two of you are saying not that these allegations are unfounded, but that the acts themselves were somehow less than perfectly unjustified.

By this rationale, would the Iraqis have been justified in killing Fox News reporters? I also seem to remember people getting pretty mad about that whole Danny Pearl thing.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:10 PM on June 15, 2003


Al Jazeera - fired its editor for being on Saddams payroll. Says me, nothing. Says Al Jazeera.

CNN was a HUGE scandal. The Beeb thing quoted in the Sun, I'm not familiar enough with British papers to know what's viable or not. I am familiar with BBCWatch and the handful of other anti-BBC organizations who are keeping an eye on them for dishonest and biased reporting (as I posted yesterday).

There is nothing that says journalists in a war zone get a pass from bombs that I'm aware of. Or tank shells. Especially when they're reporting, as credible, what Baghdad Bob was saying. When is it reporting and when is it Tokyo Rose? Targeting them may be a bit much, but the practice of fragging was not uncommon in Vietnam.

CNN - Duranty, says CNN editor Eason Jordan. And not Manson Family, not what I said at all. Did you read what I said, or did you just start to go off because you disagree? Involved in a cover-up. Duranty. They covered up Iraqi atrocities in exchange for access to Iraq. In some industries, we call that whoring. In others, they just call it dishonesty. They actively did not report anything bad about the Iraqi regime. Not passively, not negligently, but an active choice was made to suppress the news. So that they could have Baghdad's minarets in the background of their broadcasts.

You lose your status as an "objective source of news" when you do that sort of thing.

Akuinnen - try http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A26857-2003Apr14&notFound=true
posted by swerdloff at 1:11 PM on June 15, 2003


Who needed an objective source of news? Does that exist? The chance to see things from both sides might have been nice though.
posted by squealy at 1:27 PM on June 15, 2003


Ignatius - people were upset about Daniel Pearl (do you know him or his family well enough to call him Danny, or do you just feel like dishonoring him?) not because he, as a journalist, was killed, but because he was beheaded after being required to admit to being a Jew and an Israeli spy. The beheading was not a matter of an act during war, unless you grant that anything by Al Qaeda or their sympathisers is an act of war. It was a cold blooded murder. There is a difference.

Would an Iraqi be within his "rights" to kill a Fox News reporter? I don't know what the Geneva Convention says about that, and if Iraq is a signatory. But likely yes.

Squealy - there's a difference between both sides and outright lies. Baghdad Bob, for example, is one of the latter. CNN, by their actions, falls in the latter category.

Does working for the enemy make you a possible target in a war? I'd think so, yes.
posted by swerdloff at 1:34 PM on June 15, 2003


(do you know him or his family well enough to call him Danny, or do you just feel like dishonoring him?)

I honestly thought that he went by "Danny." A cursory google search revealed that I am member of a large community of dishonor. It was brave of you to expose me and my army of people who don't like innocent murder victims.

The beheadingshelling of a hotel that was not issuing fire was not a matter of an act during war, unless you grant that anything by Al Qaeda or their sympathisers the coalition of the shilling is an act of war. It was a cold blooded murder. There is a difference.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:54 PM on June 15, 2003


swerdloff: I only really wanted to point out the unreliability of The Sun as a news source. The topless birds on page 3 tend to give it away.

That said, one wouldn't be happy if our leaders were instructing the military to target our own reporters. But that wouldn't happen would it Tony? Tony?.........................Awww shit.
posted by squealy at 1:56 PM on June 15, 2003


Permission to Fire
The Attack on the Palestine Hotel

You lose your status as an "objective source of news" when you do that sort of thing.
like you do that and lose it forever and ever and ever? like, Jayson Blair lied all the time so we'll never trust the NYTimes again? (I know that this is the Murdochian/Republican/Moonie wet dream, but really, I think you're being a bit harsh in destroying all the news outlets you happen not to agree with)

by the way, the whole debate about "objectivity" is pretty fascinating for those of us (a small minority, I admit) who do not swallow the "we report, you decide" Roger Ailes mantra

by your standards, since the murderous CNN/the commie BBC (they're also limeys, right? impossible to trust)/ the Osama-loving Al Jazeera are not to be believed, ever, anymore, who do you suggest we should trust?

ps Michael Wolff wrote some smart stuff about Al Jazeera and all their contradictions. but what does he know, he's just someone who actually understands the media business
posted by matteo at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2003


ijr:The beheadingshelling of a hotel that was not issuing fire was not a matter of an act during war, unless you grant that anything by Al Qaeda or their sympathisers the coalition of the shilling is an act of war. It was a cold blooded murder. There is a difference

Hmm. For some reason I thought that the hotel shelling in Baghdad was during a time of war, in fact during the invasion of a capital city where ferocious street to street fighting was expected. And Daniel Pearl was in Pakistan, not Afghanistan, yes? Is there some new definition of war that I've been missing out on?

For the the pre-war talk of "targeted" journalists, we have one or two incidents of people getting killed in the chaos of war. You can blow on this little spark a lot, but it's not gonna make a fire.

Did the Pentagon want reporters to report only good things? Of course. Would they bully reporters? Of course. Did they intentionally kill reporters? I don't think so. Could reporters be protected better? Yes.

Do you think there were specific orders to attack a specific floor that contained Al-Jazeera reporters in the hotel where all the world's journalists lived? Or do you think random military dudes, who seemed notorious for not knowing what was happening elsewhere somehow knew what floor Al-Jazeera was on and decided to go kill some A-rab journalists?

From matteo's link you can read what the Committee to Protect Journalists feel happened. Not at all an intentional attack on Al-Jazeera to intimidate journalists. One quote from a military commander in their article "‘Did you just f***ing shoot the Palestinian [sic] Hotel?"
posted by superchris at 3:20 PM on June 15, 2003


It was during wartime, yes, but targeting an internationally-recognized "safe" area full of reporters and not, by all accounts, being used as cover for enemy fighters is hardly within the bounds of what the Geneva Convention and the corpus of international law would define lawfully as "war." If these separate incidents are, as is suggested above, entirely coincidental, then I apologize for questioning the motives of our brave and sacrosanct leaders.

All that I was saying with the Daniel Pearl thing was that there is some precedent for people thinking that it is not OK to murder journalists.

I know that no one here wants to say that it is cool to kill those who may be presenting inconvenient facts. But to respond to the allegations only by defaming those who were unlawfully targeted (or not) seems eerily akin to saying "yeah, he shouldn't have raped her, but she was dressed like a slut."

and swerdloff, if it is OK to kill "enemy" journalists, is it OK to kill their doctors as well? Morphine counts as "material support," no?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:41 PM on June 15, 2003


This is quite a dishonest article. It starts be bemoaning the death of 15 journalists in the Iraq war and intimates that all are the result of the US coalition.

However, the author only cites 1 confirmed death at allied hands. He never states that the others weren't killed by the allies - which in fact they weren't.

The author chides those simpleminded Yanks by stating "With five out of 10 Americans believing that most of the terrorists who carried out the attack on 11 September were Iraqis" but how many of the readers of this article will figure out that only 1 journalist death is attributable ot the allies, not the 15 that he leads off with?

The death of a journalist at the Palestine hotel was a tragedy, but those responsible can at least hide behind the fog of war to explain their actions.

What's the author's excuse for his little murder of the facts here?
posted by Jos Bleau at 3:58 PM on June 15, 2003


Oops, sorry, I meant to say to say "However, the author only cites 4 [not the 1 that I originally typed] confirmed death at allied hands. He never states that the others weren't killed by the allies - which in fact they weren't."
posted by Jos Bleau at 4:47 PM on June 15, 2003


an internationally-recognized "safe" area full of reporters

In an urban warfare zone, that's at best a pretty slim shell of a "safe" zone. If you think you're being shot at, taking the time to determine whether what you're targetting is a place full of reporters could get you killed.

If you're a reporter covering a war zone, then quite frankly, you have to expect that there's a chance of being killed. It's kinda the nature of what you're doing. On top of that, quite frankly, some of the coverage I saw the reporters were acting pretty stupid, standing out in the open doing their reports while a gunfight was going on. It's a miracle more of them weren't killed.
posted by piper28 at 4:53 PM on June 15, 2003


Two points:

irj :" If...then I apologize for questioning the motives of our brave and sacrosanct leaders.""
Saying that US leaders are not Satan is not saying that they are God. I just prefer the truth, regardless of its benefactors.

All I could find from a google search on the Geneva Convention and Safety Zones relevant was" (d) they shall not be situated in areas which, according to every probability, may become important for the conduct of the war."
I'd think that would preclude downtown Baghdad. I might be wrong, but I think bombing a hospital could even be valid under the Geneva Convention and International Law™, if it's a base for the military, which it appears happened often in the recent war.
posted by superchris at 4:54 PM on June 15, 2003


Ignatius J. Reilly, Al Jazeera did have an embedded reporter with "coalition" forces.

Also, Al Jazeera was founded and is bankrolled by the government of Qatar, which was very much a part of the "coalition."
posted by NortonDC at 5:15 PM on June 15, 2003


if you're getting your "news" from the TV you might as well not get it at all. the plain fact is that the current administration doesn't want anyone telling any story other than theirs. they're willing to kill to prove it. how anyone can defend that last statement is beyond me. it scares me that i seem to be so far out of step with the average american joe that condones killing my colleagues if they disagree with W.
posted by photoslob at 5:19 PM on June 15, 2003


Throughout the "war" the US openly threatened non-embedded reporters that they would be targeted, for instance for using satellite phones. During the "war" journalists were illegally detained and mistreated. Al-Jazeera headquarters, far from any legitimate military target, was bombed in both Gulf Wars by "accident". The Palestine hotel was fired upon a tank crew under direct orders from their superiors, killing one Spanish cameraman and a Reuters reporter from the Ukraine. The fact that Saddam's regime also killed reporters is very telling, it gives you a clear idea of the standard by which the US waged this "war".
posted by sic at 5:31 PM on June 15, 2003


The satellite phones thing is understandable - the military doesn't have perfect information, and since it doesn't, they don't know if that multiple-band encrypted communication is coming from a reporter using a satellite phone to file a story or an Iraqi commander calling for reinforcements. Since they don't know, they have to treat it as the latter, not the former, and react appropriately. Warning reporters that you're going to do so isn't "threatening" them.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 7:04 PM on June 15, 2003


sic: your two links go to the same one instance. First off, how is it illegal to detain people on suspicion of being spies in a warzone? Oh they have papers. Certify the papers? Outside of Baghdad before the assault? I would think the military would might higher priorities, so a 2 day delay doesn't seem extreme. Second, it does seem that they were mistreated, which of course is bad, but it seemed to be a single group that mistreated them as opposed to an overall US strategy. From the interview "...we met a lot of American soldiers, and a lot of beautiful people that helped us. That understood what we were doing there, that a lot of times were trying to help us as much as they could. Until we got to this one group of soldiers..."

Also, you state "The Palestine hotel was fired upon a tank crew under direct orders from their superiors" Where'd you get that info? It directly contradicts the Committee to Protect Journalists report that matteo linked to.
posted by superchris at 7:25 PM on June 15, 2003


World War I: The Great War / The War to End all Wars

World War II: The Good War

The Iraq War: The War When Journalists Seemed to Become a Target
posted by shoos at 11:14 PM on June 15, 2003


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