Friday, February 25, 2011

Overcoming fear mongering, curfews and much more, Iraqis march in the streets

Moqtada, al-Sistani and Nouri said "NO!" to protests today. Iraqis hollered back "YES!"

Al Rafidayn reports Baghdad saw thousands congregate at Tahrir Square with the army and the police surrounding the area. Activist Lina Ali, who stood holding flowers while protesting in Tahrir Square, explains that electricity and potable water are not available. Al Mada adds comments from various people -- including some Iraqis -- about how the internet has changed things and offers, as one example, that Saudis twenty years ago didn't learn that Iraq had invaded Kuwait until three days after due to a media blackout; however, now the information travels. Ahmad Ezzeddine, Microsoft's director in Iraq, is quoted (from an interview with Alsumaria TV) stating that at one point Iraq's internet was a series of network connected to Dubai, England or Germany but today it is far greater and it's not as simple to block or censor. Iraq also now has over 45 satellite channels.

Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) notes military helicopters flew over Baghdad -- he doesn't note whose military: "As well as criticizing the demonstrators, the government has strictly limited freedom of movement across the capital in an attempt to curb Friday's protests. There has been an increase in military helicopter traffic and heightened security at checkpoints in the capital on Friday. In Baghdad's commercial district of Karrada, police and army officials are stopping and questioning pedestrians." Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) explains Baghdad "was virtually locked down" last night with a curfew imposed: "Near midnight Thursday, a red banner flashed across state television broadcasts announcing the curfew, a draconian measure more often deployed to deal with insurgent attacks."

While some outlets see the news as Iraqis overcoming a great deal to turn out and protest, Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) play angry old man on the block making the lede about violence even though they struggle to be clear on where the violence was. If that's not clear: When the first sentence of your article is about burning buildings and shots exchanged, your second paragraph should build on that, not do a dining tour of Iraq name checking various cities. And I'm sorry, but guess damn what, this is your lede: "Rock-throwing demonstrators clashed with security forces who, in turn, beat many of the protesters and kept them from crossing the bridge." If you're headline's violence and especially if some officials in Baghdad are claiming that Iraqi police and military were so peaceful and restrained with the protesters in Baghdad, that sentence doesn't pop up in paragraph seven. It pops up at the top of the story. Were all the editors at the New York Times on a smoke break when the article was submitted?

Al Rafidayn notes 5 Mosul protesters were killed (seveteen more injured), 1 police officer was killed in Hawja, etc. And they don't write an opening paragraph about violence and then hem and haw for four paragraphs before remembering their topic, they tick it off one by one.

In fairness to Healy and Schmidt, the article was written quickly and by the time it makes it into the paper, it may be edited. Right now, it's a mess. But it's a raw article.

I don't see the violence as the main story. I see the main story as Iraqis overcame a number of obstacles to take to the street and they did take to the street. If you're not getting that point, BBC News reports, "Soldiers blocked every road leading into Baghdad to try to stop protesters from carrying out their planned day of rage, says the BBC's Jonathan Head in the Iraqi capital. No vehicles were allowed into the city centre and thousands of riot police took up position in and around Baghdad Tahrir Square." But if the violence is your angle -- maybe you're the New York Post -- if that's the primary message of today for you, you can certainly work on your presentation. In terms of an English language report focusing on the violence, you can refer to Mohammed Tawfeeq's CNN report. Violence is part of the story, we'll note in today's snapshot. I don't believe it is the story. I think the story is the Iraqi people's refusal to be bullied or silenced.

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