Monday, February 14, 2005

Dahr Jamail and Danny Schechter on reporting from Iraq

A peoples tribunal has held much of Western media guilty of inciting violence and deceiving people in its reporting of Iraq.*
The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), an international peoples initiative seeking the truth about the war and occupation in Iraq made its pronouncement Sunday after a three -- day meeting. The tribunal heard testimony from independent journalists, media professors, activists, and member of the European Parliament Michele Santoro.
The Rome session of the WTI followed others in Brussels, London, Mumbai, New York, Hiroshima-Tokyo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Lisbon. The Rome meeting focused on the media role.
The informal panel of WTI judges accused the United States and the British governments of impeding journalists in performing their task, and intentionally producing lies and misinformation.
The panel accused western corporate media of filtering and suppressing information, and of marginalising and endangering independent journalists. More journalists were killed in a 14-month period in Iraq than in the entire Vietnam war.

That's from Dahr Jamail and I'm sure it will be up tomorrow on his Iraq Dispatches. (I signed up for e-mail alerts at Iraq Dispatches.) We're going over this as set up to one of the points from Kit Seelye's article.

One of the things Seelye's article (in the New York Times) deals with is Eason Jordan (formerly of CNN) being fired for remarks he may or may not have made in a speech -- remarks as to whether or not the military was targeting journalists in Iraq.

Danny Schechter posted on this topic Saturday:

ROME – So much for freedom or speech or the slightest media dissent on the U.S. conduct in the war in Iraq.
CNN's top news exec Eason Jordan resigned after a ton of bricks and rightwing pressure fell on his head after he opined at a closed OFF THE RECORD meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos two weeks ago that he believed that as many as 12 journalists had been killed by US military forces in Iraq. His remarks triggered a controversy in the room, and once the exchange was made public, he began rapidly backing away from the statement.
CNN's competitors went on the attack with Fox News and the NY post in the lead lambasting Jordan for "sliming our troops." A
Michelle Malkin column in the Post (She is also a Fox contributor) actually conflated Jordan's personal comments into CNN policy and made it appear that CNN was attacking our troops. As politicians spoke out condemning any such suggestion, Jordan went silent and has now resigned, forced out it seems clear. He is being punished for deviating from the official line woven though demands for independent investigations of journalists killed by the military have gone underanswered.
. . .
There is more to t his Eason Jordan story that meets the eye. He was an excellent newsman although he did admit that CNN did not publicize Iraqi attacks on his staff in the Saddam days to keep CNN's office open. He also admitted "vetting" (i.e. getting approval for) CNN military experts who commented on the invasion on air.
So far no one has a record of what Jordan did say or what others said in Davos. What is clear is that silence is the price that executives must now pay to keep their jobs.
As a former CNN producer, a "Turner turnover," I find this very sad and condemn it for what it is: a chilling of debate and an avoidance of the real issue who the US military has managed and influenced media coverage of the war and been involved in incidents that many in the field – not just Jordan – believed showed clear targeting of journalists.

On Media Citizen this past Saturday, Timothy Karr noted the bloggers as well as this:

Another thing has become clear: Hunting down journalists -- not in Iraq, but on the net -- has become the newest bloodsport.As Howard Kurtz [also a CNN employee] notes in Saturday's Washington Post, bloggers Jonah Goldberg, Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin began hammering Jordan almost immediately after Davos attendee Rony Abovitz posted an online account. The Washington Post and Boston Globe published stories Tuesday and the Miami Herald, AP and Wall Street Journal chimed in on Thursday. It soon became pundit fodder for talk shows on Fox News [ingloriously featuring my colleague Danny Schechter], MSNBC and CNBC.The problem is that much of the story was driven by those seeking to score political points. Any new and accurate information that they uncover is just a byproduct of the hunt.This controversy mounted as mainstream news reporters fed off the blogs; their resulting coverage stoked the ranting pundits on the endless cable talk shows. The media storm then spun back into the blogosphere, which ratcheted the frenzy up another notch. And so on.Former CNN News Group Chairman Walter Isaacson told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Jordan was dedicated to "the value of hard reporting by real journalists who braved going out into the field, like he so often did, rather than merely opining. It's ironic that he was brought down partly by talk-show and blogging folks who represent the opposite approach and have seldom . . . ventured out to do . . . frontline reporting."

We'll be commenting on the Seelye article shortly. But that's to give background (use links) on what the story is about for those who didn't read it. (Joni e-mailed that she would like to comment but she can't bring herself to read anything with Seelye's name on it after the 2000 election.

For those unfamiliar with Seelye, I'll note The Daily Howler (and that link clicks on a site search of The Daily Howler for Seelye).

In our year-in-review, Seelye was noted:

Most Surprising Blogger Turn:
Kit Seelye

Her work during the 2000 campaign has been rightly criticized. As a print writer, Seeyle has much animosity to overcome (and that's a result of her own work, sorry). But as a blogger for the Times during the debates (billed as "Kit" not Katharine), Seeyle offered some instant analysis that should have made it into print articles (but often didn't) and was frequently entertaining and -- in the instant analysis, blow by blow -- attempting to set the record straight.
Here are some moments that stood out to me:

Debate two:
8:55 p.m. This is Kit Seelye, tuning in with you to watch the second presidential debate. This one will be town-hall style in St. Louis.
9:03 p.m. Did Kerry just swipe Bush's back to see if there was a transmitter?
9:16 p.m. Bush is smirking. Did the White House shield him from the reviews of the first debate?9:22 p.m. This may be as close as Bush comes to admitting that even if he didn't make a mistake, something went awry by invading Iraq: "I recognize that I've made some decisions that have caused people to not understand the great values of our country."
9:30 p.m. Kerry needs to curtail this tendency toward over-explanation when answering a question. But his style tonight is a lot like the arc of his political life: starting off indirect and unfocused but closing with a bang. Here's the bang: "If we have to get tough with Iran, believe me, we will get tough.'' Listening to that, Bush tried to wipe out the memory of his expressions in the first debate, saying Kerry's answer almost made him "want to scowl.'' But no one laughed.
9:45 p.m. Bush is trying to have it both ways on the importation of drugs from Canada. He wants to make sure that they cure you instead of kill you. But he is reserving the right to approve the importation in December -- AFTER the election. But, Kerry suggests, would he really go back on his inclination to do what's best for the big drug companies? Bush comes back to say, "If they're safe, they're coming.'' (Where are the dead Canadians?)
10:26 p.m.Bush has a simple answer: "We're not going to pay taxpayer money on abortion." There are no federal payments for abortion now. Bush is more comfortable saying he opposes abortion than Kerry is saying that he favors abortion rights.
10:28 p.m.Bush gets a second chance to say whether he has made any mistakes, after being put on the spot last spring at a press conference when he said he couldn't think of a one. The questioner asks for three examples. Bush still can't think of one. He says he made some mistakes in appointing people but won't mention their names on TV.
Debate three:
9:00 p.m. This is Kit Seelye strapping in with you for the last of our real-time debate rides. The polls have Bush and Kerry dead even, and this is their last formal chance to break out.
9:18 p.m. Bush says he "sent up my budget man" to Congress. A whiff of the lord of the manor sending one of his workers off on another task...
9:33 p.m. Bush should probably not laugh in response to a question about why health care costs so much.
[Yazz, one attempt at fairness shouldn't bother anyone. I really do think that Seelye was entertaining and, via common sense, refuting some of the things that would later appear in print -- at all outlets -- without comment. When the Times chooses to do instant analysis of another event, I hope they consider going with Seelye again. I never read any blogs or articles on her debate writing this go round, so if you want to be offended that she got a mention, considering it done in the interest of the preserving the public record.]

That covers Seelye. For those unfamiliar with the attacks on journalists in Iraq, I'd suggest you view the film The Control Room and also note the website Reporters Without Borders. And let me disclose that I've encountered Eason Jordan.