Supressed information, propaganda affect news process from war zones
Surviving the Iraq War, let alone reporting it, has been a struggle that is only growing harder, according to journalists who participated in a panel on war reporting held at CU Tuesday evening.
The discussion, titled “Surviving the Assignment: 21st Century War Reporting in the Age of Blackwater” highlighted the unique dangers war reporters face in Iraq, and the importance of awareness when corresponding in unstable regions.
“This is the first war in which journalists themselves have been targeted,” Paul Voakes, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication said. “There are fewer than 50 journalists in Iraq at any given time.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Web site, there have been 121 journalists killed in Iraq and 52 in 2007 alone.
Many organizations have been formed in recent years to provide safety and medical training to individuals and companies working in challenging environments.
AKE Group Ltd. was created in 1991 to help professionals who face security risks when on the job and now trains journalists from CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and others.
“It was no longer an acceptable part of the job that someone was going to get injured or killed,” Tim Crockett, executive director of AKE Group Ltd., said. “No major news organization will send personnel without training them first.”
While going to the battlefields of any war it is important to be aware, but a new kind of awareness has become essential to reporters since March 2003. John McWethy, a former ABC News international correspondent noted the new need for “fixers,” or translators with local knowledge than in previous wars like Vietnam where journalists enjoyed greater mobility.
“You have to make sure that they’re of the right persuasion for the place you’re going to be,” McWethy said.
Mariwan Hama-Saeed, an editor with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Baghdad, said that the safety of Iraqi journalists is subject to even greater threats.
Due to minimal budgets, Iraqi journalists are often unable to take advantage of training programs. Hama-Saeed explained that many Middle-Eastern journalists find themselves unable to put their name on their story or reveal their profession to their families.
“The danger for Iraqi journalists is growing bigger and bigger,” Hama-Saeed said. “Things have gotten so bad that first of all, we don’t even byline them and now they are even afraid of reporting.”
All four panelists agreed the danger for both Iraqi and American journalists to do their jobs has limited the amount of news coverage on activity in Iraq.
To work around this, reporters rely on many different angles to get a complete picture, according to panelists.
Alex Quade, a CNN correspondent embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan noted that Iraq War angles, whether military or civilian, are “like little slices of a pie” that strive to complete a larger picture.
“If you put an embedded reporter in a unit, even when its bad news, a reporter will tell the story,” McWethy said. “If you don’t have a reporter in the unit, it can be propaganda back and forth for a very long time.”
Although the use of embedded reporters can prevent war propaganda, many of the panelists expressed frustrations about their limited ability to go out onto the streets of Baghdad and the effect this has on the quality of their news angles.
“I don’t think you can find any news organizations that are not frustrated by the limited ability to get out,” McWethy said. “It’s a question of what the cost is to tell the bigger picture. It’s not all the story and we don’t kid ourselves.”
Contact Campus Press Editor Amanda Pehrson at firstname.lastname@example.org