October 26, 2002
12:10 AM   Subscribe

CNN ordered to shut down in Iraq. Reporters Without Borders has issued a strong condemnation of the Iraqi government's decision ordering the shut down of CNN office in Baghdad, where CNN has had an office for the past 12 years. All 6 journalists, including the bureau chief Jane Arraf are given up to next Monday to leave the country. I am unable to find the news on CNN website.
posted by taratan (24 comments total)
so.. we won't get any 'behind the scenes' coverage of the war this time around?

well.. pity!

although not having any reporters around is gonna allow for some fibs to be spun, ya know.
posted by RobbieFal at 12:26 AM on October 26, 2002

More details from Thursday.
posted by GaelFC at 12:35 AM on October 26, 2002

Thanks GaelFC. Curiously, the NYT and WP had no comment on this. Do they plan on evading the order?
posted by gsteff at 1:41 AM on October 26, 2002

Actually, after reading this, you would think coverage of events from outside Iraq's borders are better than inside.
posted by owillis at 2:20 AM on October 26, 2002

I was just about to post the link that owillis did. This is just a well known tactic of the Iraqi's to get more sympathetic reporting from CNN (and other media outlets). This isn't the first time it's happened and it sure as hell isn't the last.
posted by PenDevil at 2:48 AM on October 26, 2002

CNN's article on the shutdown is here.
posted by bravada at 2:52 AM on October 26, 2002

An ex-Iraqi intelligence official I contacted through the opposition Iraqi National Congress wrote a memo to me describing their tactics: sending women to seduce male reporters in their hotel rooms, planting false information with reporters, destroying reporters' equipment.

Not dissimilar to the treatment of the weapons inspectors. (The part that just floored me from that show was an explanation of how they would start in New York by code-naming, calendaring, and choosing all their inspection targets in a noisy restaurant like Smith & Wollensky's, and then not discussing targets at all from then until they actually began driving toward them, which they would do not by naming their targets but by indicating turns to the drivers, sometimes using circuitous routes. Every time, practically, their targets were ready for them, often exhibiting signs of hasty but thorough cleansing. Also, the Iraqis would harass and intimidate them by packing Iraqis into a room, 2 or 3 for every inspector. Crude, but effective. They would also get seduction and death threat phone calls.

In any case, what's astonishing, perhaps, is how quickly we've forgotten how the USSR, China, and others used to play this game at a much more sophisticated level.

A bit about Farzad Bazoft, the Observer reporter who was hanged as a spy for performing his own weapons-plant snooping (in 1990). There are a few more details in this bizarre, elliptical rant about the Bazoft case and its relation to British politics and policies. (Among other curious assertions, it claims there is no difference between spying on behalf of the media, or a foreign government. Not close to the RSF line.)
posted by dhartung at 3:09 AM on October 26, 2002

Make no mistake, just by reporting from Baghdad CNN has potential to provide useful intelligence in the event of war or impending war (which is where we are now, anyway). They're just making sure they're not going to repeat the mistake they made when the bombing began in '91, as John Holliman and Bernie Whosis were broadcasting live from their hotel room.
posted by alumshubby at 6:28 AM on October 26, 2002

What useful intelligence? They're restricted to either broadcasting from the Iraqi Ministry of Information or being shadowed by a "guide" who prevents any decent investigation or free movement.
posted by PenDevil at 6:58 AM on October 26, 2002

"Has the potential to"? Hello?

Ten minutes before they're yanked off the air, they could be broadcasting a breaking story about the first air raids by coalition aircraft, giving an impromptu real-time strike damage assessment. Or weren't you watching in '91?
posted by alumshubby at 7:28 AM on October 26, 2002

There's a difference between giving feedback and intelligence gathering/investigation. One is before the action starts, the other is after the fact.

While CNN might be good at giving feedback ("Wow! Holy Cow, that was a large airburst, filling the sky"-CNN's John Holliman), there investigative journalism capabilities are severely restricted by the Iraqi Government.
posted by PenDevil at 8:21 AM on October 26, 2002

Hah. CNN more disliked than the station that put this man in the middle east.

Do you think if Fox was actually believed to be a legitimtae news source by U. S. Citizens, that they would be the target of similar illegitimate censorship by the "axis of evil?"
posted by zekinskia at 9:33 AM on October 26, 2002

The Iraqi regime uses every means to control the press and silence dissenting voices. President Saddam and his eldest son Uday hold complete sway over the local media, which is assigned the single task of putting out government propaganda.

Another blow to the foolish idea that Iraq should be left alone.
posted by aaronshaf at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2002

Why is that, aaronshaf? Is it your belief that Iraq is the only nation with a state-controlled media?
posted by rushmc at 9:53 AM on October 26, 2002

Was anyone else a little thrown by the "America at War" logo on the msn.com story? Maybe I missed something, but isn't America still in the war-mongering phase?
posted by SoftRain at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2002

some of the links did point this out, but allow me to reiterate that it isn't just CNN that's being ejected from Iraq ... it's ALL non-Iraqi journalists.

It probably affects CNN the most, since they are the only Western journalistic organization with a bureau in Iraq...it's probably the most well-staffed Western journalistic organization over there too. But it also affects NBC, the London Times, the New York Times, et cetera.

Are CNN's (and other news outlets') reporters accompanied by "minders" outside of Baghdad, and are their reports monitored? Yes. But notice that the reports almost always acknowledge that fact. The situation that reigned up until a few days ago was by NO means ideal, but it was better than being kicked out of the country altogether.

(Disclaimer: I work for CNN, but I don't speak for it.)

and on preview: I can't STAND these "America At War"/"America Held Hostage"/"America Wants Extra Cheese with That"/et cetera banners. Nor can I stand the dippy music that usually accompanies. Nor can I stand it when anchors refer to "we bombed" or "our forces." They don't work for the US government. Give me CNN International or BBC World any day.
posted by Vidiot at 10:17 AM on October 26, 2002

"America Wants Extra Cheese with That"

Me, too.
And lots of fries, thank you
posted by matteo at 10:30 AM on October 26, 2002

Be sure to read the article that got CNN in trouble. I heard NPR report that some Western news outlets didn't cover that amazing, unscripted demonstration last week *at all*. The NYTimes covered the protest. Did Fox? Their search only seems to go back one day. Bizarre.

Anyone with half a brain in CNN's marketing department should be able to spin this to their benefit.

allow me to reiterate that it isn't just CNN that's being ejected from Iraq ... it's ALL non-Iraqi journalists.

From the MSNBC story: "Iraq is expelling *some* foreign journalists...The orders did not appear to apply to all organizations, or even all personnel for the same organization." [emphasis added] The NYT also reported today that Iraq is denying that all foreign journalists have been expelled, and I can't find any word from the paper about its own people on the scene.
posted by mediareport at 11:23 AM on October 26, 2002

mediareport : thanks for the clarification. from your links, it seems there were 2 damning reports (one by the bureau chief, Jane Araf and another by Nic Robertson) both taped on Oct 22 and available in video on the website, and the linked artcle filed by Jane Araf on Oct 23.

Give me CNN International or BBC World any day.

Vidiot : There isn't much choice. In most parts of the world outside of USA, CNNI and BBC World are probably the only TV networks that provide 24/7 coverage of global news in English. They're practically household names to millions of viewers around the world and are accessible to homes and many commercial establishments.

Does any one know whether BBC journalists / reporters are also on the expulsion list?

The expulsion of journalists and severe restrictions placed on others remaining are pre-war casualties that can only be expected and it looks like Saddam Hussein has started his own battle of survival. It is also not surprising that the man would want to put intrusive foreign reporters on the leash if & when the UN inspectors get back into Iraq on more stringent terms.

To what extent the controlled foreign media in Iraq will be able to provide you & I the "staple" news on the UN-sanctioned weapons inspections (if that occur) or coverage of unfolding events within Iraq from here on will without doubt form part of the Iraqi's strategy in counteracting the threat of regime change.
posted by taratan at 1:54 PM on October 26, 2002

I was mainly saying that I prefer both BBC World and CNNI to the CNN/U.S. feed and other US news networks.

As far as I know, CNNI and BBC World are the only 24/7 English world news nets. (not sure if Sky News is 24/7, or how big its reach is.)

Thanks for the clarification, mediareport. I missed that in the MSNBC story.

I see that Iraq is denying expelling the journalists. (AP Story) However it turns out, it'll be interesting to see.

What's clear is that Iraq has not changed its pattern of retaliation against the sources of stories they don't like.
posted by Vidiot at 2:36 PM on October 26, 2002

Do you believe nearly-meaningless access is better than no access?

The foreign media that panders to the Iraqi government becomes part of the propaganda machine. This can hardly be construed as non-biased reporting, and I doubt that it provides any useful information whatsoever to the average westerner. These journalists personally gather information, but aren't able to disseminate it in a meaningful way. So why go at all? Wouldn't it be better to get as complete a story as possible outside of Iraq's borders and say "too bad being in Iraq would give us less information"?

[Admittedly, not all foreign reporters only report what they are told to. But why file the other stories?]

I'd be really curious to understand the reasoning.
posted by raedyn at 4:04 PM on October 26, 2002

raedyn, be sure to read owillis's New Republic link; I think you'll like it. There are folks who feel that setting up on Iraq's borders and talking with Iraqis who've recently left the country would provide far more insight than submitting to Saddam's absurdly fearful restrictions.

Again, even a child could find a way to spin this episode to CNN's advantage.
posted by mediareport at 6:50 PM on October 26, 2002

*refrains from the obvious comment about CNN's promo department*
posted by Vidiot at 9:17 AM on October 27, 2002

Today's NYTimes has a story clarifying the position of their people over there, and giving more insight into the present climate for foreign-reporting. Interesting to see the generational lines being drawn between Saddam and his son.
posted by Vidiot at 9:49 AM on October 28, 2002

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