As Americans surf their TVs for war news every night, it seems as if we're seeing more reporters than soldiers. In Iraq, reporters are putting both their safety and their jobs on the line. So far, two reporters have died, and as many as twelve Western journalists may have been captured. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has been confiscating reporters' cellphones and kicking some of them out of Iraq, while a major network has fired a Pulitzer prize winning reporter. It sounds like journalists are fighting their own war in Iraq.
Newsday reporter Matthew McAllester and photographer Moises Saman disappeared from their Baghdad hotel a week ago, and freelance French-American photographer Molly Bingham was missing as well. All three of them called home, saying they are now safe in Jordan. Dele Olojede, Newsday's foreign editor, says, "They said they are well. They said there is nothing wrong with them."
McAllester's sister Janey McAllester says, "He said they had been held in prison but they had been treated okay. I asked him if he was held by people from Iraq's Ministry of Information and he just said, 'That's a nice name for them.'"
Seven Italians journalists, from several different newspapers, disappeared last week after trying to get into Basra, and Paolo Serventi Longhi of the National Italian Press Federation says they?ve been arrested by Iraqi authorities and taken to Baghdad, where they?re being held in a hotel. They have been allowed to contact their families and newspapers by telephone. "They are in good condition," Longhi says. "They could be freed soon. The Iraqis might even offer them a visa to remain in Baghdad."
British journalist Terry Lloyd has been killed and two of his colleagues are missing. British TV correspondent Gaby Rado died after apparently falling from a hotel room balcony. The annual report of the Committee to Protect Journalists says a total of 19 journalists were killed worldwide last year while on the job, and a large number of reporters have been jailed.
U.S. soldiers have been confiscating satellite phones with built-in Global Positioning Systems (GPS) from reporters, fearing they could reveal their positions to enemy soldiers. Since they're embedded with our troops, this would also reveal U.S. troop movements.
We've gone even further with Israeli reporters and kicked two of them out of Iraq, accusing them of being spies. After accompanying U.S. troops for a week, Dan Scemama, of Israel's Broadcasting Authority, was detained by the U.S. military and held for two days until he was expelled. Israeli newspaper reporter Boaz Bismuth was also detained and expelled. "We were humiliated for many hours," Scemama says. "They did not let us eat and they took all the means of communication we had on our persons." I guess that means we swiped their phones too.
While Geraldo Rivera is denying reports that he's been kicked out of Iraq for giving out too much information about troop locations, NBC journalist Peter Arnett has been fired after he gave an interview on Iraqi television where he said, "The first war plan has just failed because of Iraqi resistance. Clearly the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces?Our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States. It helps those who oppose the war, when you challenge the policy, to develop their arguments." NBC says, "It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war. And it was wrong for him to discuss personal observations and opinions in that interview."
Arnett said, "I want to apologize to the American people for clearly making a misjudgment. I am not anti-war, I am not anti-military. I said over the weekend what we all know about the war."
Arnett won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in Vietnam, and also reported on the Gulf War. In 1991, he said the allies bombed a baby milk factory there, but the U.S. said it was a biological weapons plant. However, Arnett stood by his story. In 1998, he reported on CNN that American forces used sarin gas on a Laotian village in 1970 to kill U.S. defectors. Two CNN employees were fired for that report and Arnett was reprimanded.
Meanwhile, government officials in Swaziland have discovered that Phesheya Dube, their state-run radio station's "man in Baghdad," has actually never left the country and has been broadcasting from a broom closet. Last week, news program host Moses Matsebula expressed concern for Dube's safety and advised him to "find a cave somewhere to be safe from missiles." Maybe Dube has the right idea.
Reporters and TV views alike should be glad there's no such thing as doomsday?now back in stock!
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