The Command Post
Iraq
April 11, 2003
CNN Withheld Iraq News Info

The News We Kept to Ourselves

    Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.

(this piece was actually blogged first by Christopher Rake here last night.)

Posted By PoliticaObscura at April 11, 2003 08:40 AM | TrackBack
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This is such a sad story in a number of ways. Number one is that it reveals how much the news business is willing to make deals with the devil, knowing how bad things are - which makes my second point even sadder - all the high level news people with their anti-war slant are basically saying, we don't care if the balance of power and "peace" is bought with the blood of the victims of evil regimes...as long as their civil wars and struggles continue to help our ratings but stay far away, we can act like we are better and have clean hands.

I can understand not releasing certain stories because of the danger to the staff, but then to act like everything is good and hunky-dory and the people in oppressed areas really love their oppressors is enough to make me weep. Lord have mercy on our hardness of heart!

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 08:46 AM

Can you imagine getting such a "plastic bag" left on your doorstep?

I sincerely hope Saddam and his sons are buried alive and experiencing slow and painful death.

Posted by: Reid at April 11, 2003 08:47 AM

It makes me wonder what else CNN knows about going on in the world but refuses to report because of fears for safety of locals or CNN employees there. It is hard to fault CNN for this, but it goes to show that you can't rely on the news media as the absolute source of truth and that if you suspect a dictatorship is bad, it's probably 10x worse.

It is good to see the reports now, at least.

Posted by: spin at April 11, 2003 08:51 AM

So we should not believe what CNN reported then, but believe what they report now, or is it the other way around? I guess I'll just watch FOX.

Posted by: jamesbray at April 11, 2003 08:51 AM

If it happens with CNN, it happens to ALL the major players. They were just the first to admit it....

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 08:56 AM

How can the members of the media possibly call themselves 'moral'? How do they sleep at night?

Posted by: DSmith at April 11, 2003 08:58 AM

This story is sad on a number of levels. What bothers me most is the self-satisfaction of some of CNN's own personalities when they take Bush to task for seeing things as "evil" while their own CNN producers saw evil first-hand...and said nothing.

Posted by: politicaobscura at April 11, 2003 08:59 AM

I feel all dirtied, like I've been slimed, like I need to go to confession for supporting the news services...the neutral tones some of them attempt, I can understand, but how can any of them been anti-war when they know the wickedness that has been going on???

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 09:01 AM

I note this story doesn't appear on CNN.com (or at least I didn't see it).

This is without question one of the most disgusting things I've heard in this war so far.

I'm writing to CNN to complain that they are not headlining this story. I think the media themselves should be raising a big stink about this, and if they don't, the blogosphere should attempt to force them to, in my opinion.

Posted by: DSmith at April 11, 2003 09:06 AM

Well it's not like this information was completely hidden. A number of books on the widespread, state sanctioned use of torture ("Republic of Fear") in Iraq have been around since even before the first gulf war. Unfortunately, most of the anti-war public in Iraq don't research their topic beyond 5 minutes of CNN before they come to the conclusion that War Is Bad and laugh at Bush or others in the administration who are (though the anti-war types would never admit it) much better educated on the internals of Iraq.

Rather than taking things at face value: Iraq is a danger now. Iraq will become more of a danger in the future. Iraq with nuclear weapons and Uday in charge (worst case here) would be an extremely serious and unpredictable threat, that the Iraqi people are suffering under Hussein - rather than this the center-left and left antiwar types would prefer to make up some conspiracy as the motivation for any American action in Iraq.

This is why the US is a representitive democracy. A pure, direct democracy in the US would basically put CNN in charge of the United States. Lets take a moment and be thankful that the authors of the Constitution did such a good job, and that the majority of the American people were able to look at things without resorting to conspiracy theory.

Posted by: spin at April 11, 2003 09:07 AM

But if they had broadcast the truth they would have lost their access! And with no access no SCOOP! No FAME! No Pulitzer Prize!

What a bunch of hypocritical scumbags. If they had any shred of decency they would have left Iraq long ago and publicly stated their reasons.

Posted by: William at April 11, 2003 09:10 AM

This absolutely infuriates me! Now we find out that at least one American news organization was essentially collaborating with Saddam to conceal known facts about the vicious regime in Iraq. As my brother commented to me recently, they're not the Fourth Estate, they're a dadgummed Fifth Column

Posted by: ann at April 11, 2003 09:10 AM

"What bothers me most is the self-satisfaction of some of CNN's own personalities when they take Bush to task for seeing things as "evil" while their own CNN producers saw evil first-hand...and said nothing."

At CNN (and other organizations) they have no problem moralizing (media, moralizing?) and pushing out their own political views...then they publish this?

Yikes, words fail....


Posted by: aham at April 11, 2003 09:12 AM

DON'T THINK CNN IS THE ONLY ONE DOING THIS! Eason Jordan was the first to confess it. No doubt this is just the way of doing business in all the tricky areas...

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 09:13 AM

So CNN admits LYING to us (by omission) all these years and participating in a COVERUP to keep their access to Iraq.

What did CNN know and when did they know it? They just admitted their guilt.

What decent person can watch CNN now and wonder what new crimes they are covering up?

Posted by: jim at April 11, 2003 09:15 AM

I want to know the same stuff about all the news services that have international presence, like Reuters, BBC, AFP, AP, and everybody else....

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 09:17 AM

'The truth? What truth? We'll let you know what the Truth is....after the commercial.

Stay tuned...

Posted by: aham at April 11, 2003 09:21 AM

I don't see a problem here, or any reason to fault CNN.

First, here is what wasn't reported: Saddam tortures people and Saddam's son threatens to kill King Husayn and two Iraqi exiles in Jordan.

The fact that Saddam tortured and killed people was not news, it was public knowledge. Death threats against King Husayn were common and, sometimes, public. Finally, the presence of the two Iraqi exiles in Jordan was well publicized and it was no secret that they were under threat of assassination, even if they weren't silly enough to return to Iraq.

So, CNN had to decide if running with these relatively weak stories was worth the lives of their employees. They made the right choice.

Should CNN have issued some kind of disclaimer, to the effect that their Iraqi stories may or may nor be influenced by worries about CNN employers being held and tortured by Saddam? No, because that, too, would have increased the risk to their imprisoned employees.

Posted by: enloop at April 11, 2003 09:24 AM

Cheer up, folks. CNN will pay for their treachery to the American public.

Aaron Brown has proved to be a worthless anchor more interested in his roll in the world than what is really happening.

And Bush is getting such a ratings boost, Don Imus has announced that they've started a suicide watch for Judy Woodruff.

Posted by: Cowboy Bob at April 11, 2003 09:27 AM

While I have no great love for CNN, it sounds as if the employees in the Baghdad office were Iraqis. If so, there would have been no way for CNN to protect them or their families from retribution by the Iraqi government. CNN should have been more astute. This tactic, putting the gun in your hand in exchange for favors, is employed by Hussein for quite some time.

Posted by: chvs at April 11, 2003 09:29 AM

This might almost be impressive, if The New Republic hadn't already published an article on this very topic back in November. If I remember correctly, it even prompted an indignant reply from a CNN producer. Can someone with more time than me find a link? I believe it was in November 2002, possibly October.

Posted by: George at April 11, 2003 09:29 AM

I wonder how long it'll take FoxNews to pick up this story?

Posted by: DSmith at April 11, 2003 09:31 AM

OK, so what aren't CNN telling us now?

Posted by: Alan E Brain at April 11, 2003 09:33 AM

"So, CNN had to decide if running with these relatively weak stories was worth the lives of their employees. They made the right choice.

Should CNN have issued some kind of disclaimer, to the effect that their Iraqi stories may or may nor be influenced by worries about CNN employers being held and tortured by Saddam? No, because that, too, would have increased the risk to their imprisoned employees.
"

So I suppose if the White House threatened to kill some CNN staff it would be acceptable for CNN to never report it or other negative news items? Is that what a "free press" is all about?

Posted by: William at April 11, 2003 09:33 AM

But why stay involved in this 'sick' relationship with the Iraqi regime? Pardon me if I sound naive, but even the Red Cross will pull out of a country if its representatives are threatened or hurt. The major news organizations have the power of the legitimacy they convey - they are free to use it and could if they were willing to take a moral stand.

I for one see it as hypocritical that a news organization can behave this way but then criticize anyone else for almost anything. "Get the log out of your own eye before you worry about the splinter in another's".

Posted by: keith at April 11, 2003 09:33 AM

We're not (or at least I'm not) complaining about that they sat on details of things that were dangerous to their staff.

I'm complaining that the tone of things, the anti-war and pro-protestor bias that a number of reporters have demonstrated is an evil, when the industry knew there was great wickedness going on with the population of Iraq, and that to pretend the people of Iraq really loved Saddam and all was fine there, and the US was the true villans is self serving of the worst type.

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 09:34 AM

Here is the news on the CNN site.

Do you like how they headlined it?

"CNN exec: Plot against journalists foiled"

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/04/11/sprj.irq.cnn.plot/index.html

What a bunch of BS. I prefer the headline: "CNN participates in coverup of Iraqi Human Rights abuses"

Posted by: William at April 11, 2003 09:36 AM

Here's what bothers me, in 1990-91 a CNN Iraqi employee was TORTURED and CNN knew about it.

Why after that, did they keep employing Iraqis at all, knowing that the mere association with them would put them in danger.

Paula Zhan just interviewed the CNN executive, the interview didn't raise the question about the ethics and decision of this. On C-SPAN they mentioned it, and these questions were not raised either.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 09:36 AM

The story is on Drudge now, and it'll move at blog-speed. CNN needs to spend some time under the glaring lights so the public can get some answers, not just a contrived, clinton-tight article floated through the NYT.

The public can let them off the hook later, if that's what should happen, and not before there's more disclosure about how far this goes and what sort of game might be going on here.

Posted by: Snooze at April 11, 2003 09:36 AM

CNN = Collaborator News Network

Posted by: Melissa at April 11, 2003 09:38 AM

I want to know who else has danced with the devil this way...

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 09:38 AM

Hmmmpppffff.... once I caught on to MSNBC and now Fox..., I don't even recall where CNN or any of its appendages are on my satellite dial.

But I do miss Lynn Russell, in all her varied and glorious quintessence.

Posted by: bill at April 11, 2003 09:44 AM

Hmmmpppffff.... once I caught on to MSNBC and now Fox..., I don't even recall where CNN or any of its appendages are on my satellite dial.

But I do miss Lynn Russell, in all her varied and glorious quintessence.

Posted by: bill at April 11, 2003 09:44 AM

I can't fault CNN for this. I fault the public that didn't even attempt to do their research before deciding the war was bad. A trip to amnesty international's web site will give you plenty of reports of torture in Iraq.

Posted by: spin at April 11, 2003 09:45 AM

Some Questions for CNN:

When employing Iraqis, did you inform them of the risk they were running, ie what had happened before?

After the immediate danger was over for the people concerned (ie they had escaped, or been chopped up) why did you not report that?

Are you concealing anything of a similar nature elsewhere? (A simple yes or no would suffice)

If yes, and if it would not endanger anyone, what continent(s) are they on?

I won't ask which countries, unless you think it would be completely safe to reveal that.

Could you please tell us what other networks are in a similar position?

And could you please give us a credible reason why we should ever believe you again?

Posted by: Alan E Brain at April 11, 2003 09:46 AM

It's one thing to stay neutral from a story to remain unbiased and capable of reporting the truth, but it's an entire different matter when you utterly divorce yourself from humanity and allow horrors, brutality, and torture to happen under your watch all for the pursuit of what you market is a real and unimpeded flow of information.

Eason Jordan, chief news executive of CNN, confesses now what he claims he couldn't tell before out of fear of Saddam's regime. Eason no less than confesses... I take that back - begs for forgiveness for the disconnect between truth and journalism on a major news network, all for the sake of a promotable bauble such as "The only American news network with a bureau in Iraq."

The price was not just in dinars... it was in his soul, his humanity, and his integrity, and we as a freedom-loving people need to let him know that this kind of behavior where "it's only business" is utterly despicable.

This man makes me sick, especially when I go back and read his recent claims of a lack of bias when covering the Palestinian Authority. When Yasser Arafat is gone, will Eason Jordan suddenly testify of all of the brutality, torture, and horrors that Arafat's thugs and terrorists threatened journalists with, so Eason was "forced" into a devil's bargain with him, too?

Posted by: Laurence (Amish Tech Support) at April 11, 2003 09:47 AM

"I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely."

Oh GOD, you just dont KNOW how BAD this has been for me! FINALLY I can tell the TRUTH! Thank GOD! Whew! Oh, this feels so much BETTER for me!

And just in case you haven't noticed the story is really about ME.

Posted by: Dr. A at April 11, 2003 09:50 AM

The distancing of various individuals, organizations, businesses and governments after the fall of Iraq smacks of post-war Germany when many claimed they just went along with the Nazi party to get along.

The world decided that was not acceptable at the Nuremberg Military Tribunals.

CNN will pay dearly for this deception either in their share price or the loss of the confidence of their viewership. Of course neither can sink much lower and allow CNN remain a viable business.

They are pretty much done in the US as a credible news source.

Posted by: feste at April 11, 2003 09:51 AM

And you know that others in the industry had to know this sort of thing went on, just from scuttlebutt...How can people like PETER ARNETT who was working for CNN (or maybe even ABC NEWS, although I don't know if or how much they knew) live with themselves knowing what wickedness was going on, and how they addressed it?

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 09:52 AM

George, I think this might be the New Republic story you mentioned.

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021028&s=foer102802

Posted by: BD at April 11, 2003 09:56 AM

For those attempting to justify this, I suppose that if CNN had had, say, an office in Weimar in 1938, they would have been justified in suppressing the story of Buchenwald.

Apparently "journalistic integrity" has become an oxymoron.

It'll be interesting to see what the discussion at Poynter.org will be about this.

Posted by: DSmith at April 11, 2003 09:56 AM

Blame the victim Spin.

Posted by: Houston at April 11, 2003 09:57 AM

>>So I suppose if the White House threatened to kill some CNN staff it would be acceptable for CNN to never report it or other negative news items? Is that what a "free press" is all about?

No, because that would be new and very important story. Same ethical decision, though.

Every journalist working in Saddam's Iraq worked in compromised position, and they knew it. ( And, any reasonably informed consumer of news should have known that. Control of the media is fundamental to a totalitarian regime.)

Every journalist in Saddam's Iraq was there at the pleasure of the regime. No journalist was allowed to engagee in "free" journalism. That was the price of admission.

Every journalist was accompanied by a government minder. No journalist interviewed a source if the regime didn't want that source interviewed. Every journalist knew the regime tortured and murdered with abandon, and every journalist, especially U.S. journalists, should have assumed that Saddam's intelligence service had compiled dossiers on them and had them and, perhaps, their families, under surveillance.

Rather than using this story to justify their bias against CNN in particular, people should be asking if any Western journalists should have remained in Saddam's Iraq?

Posted by: enloop at April 11, 2003 09:57 AM

Rather than using this story to justify their bias against CNN in particular, people should be asking if any Western journalists should have remained in Saddam's Iraq?

I have no bias against CNN, I watch it all the time.

My question is, after the first incident in 1990, why did they put more Iraqi employees in danger. If Iraq believed CNN was a CIA organization, they should have pulled out or not hire any Iraqi employees.

Can one raise this question and not be accussed of having a "bias" against CNN?

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 10:06 AM

This story should be THE STORY of the day. I'm sure the media outlets will largely ignore it, but I hope the internet writers and bloggers will trumpet this loudly and intensely. This should be a hammer that we hit against the established media for many years to come. It is an unbelievable disgrace for CNN and every effort needs to be made to see if this sort of compromise was made by CNN in other places, and which other organizations were similarly compromised.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at April 11, 2003 10:09 AM

The Clinton
News
Network
follow by the
Baghdad
Broadcast
Corporation
are the jewel of misinformation they have been for years and will be for years to came .....wake up America e-mail CNN and tell them you will NEVER watch them AGAIN......

Posted by: rowdy at April 11, 2003 10:10 AM

Houston: you should never base your world view on any one aspect of the media. Think of everything as building a court case - what is the situation in Iraq? Listen to CNN, the BBC, go to the library and check out books on the subject. Yes, CNN was unethical in not reporting the situation in Iraq accurately, but even worse is the US education system for not teaching even the basics of research and critical thought. Reports of torture in Iraq are widespread and there is no need for CNN to report it for you to find out about it.

CNN is undoubtedly aware that their reports influence a significant portion of US public opinion and that because of this they hold tremendous power by deciding what to report and what not to report, but at the same time we can't decide for CNN what they should or should not report. Their ethics should hold them to that.

Posted by: spin at April 11, 2003 10:12 AM

Lets say that CNN HAD reported what they knew in 1990, or 1985, or 1995, or whenever. CNN, and probably most of the rest of the western media, would have had no - zero - none - presence in Iraq, and probably several other countries since. What serves us better, in learning about the world - the somewhat obviously slanted coverage we got from Iraq, or the total lack of coverage - due to no access - we get from, say, North Korea or Western China?

Most people who didn't know what the Hussein regime was like were willfully ignorant - a single well-reported story fifteen years ago followed by silence would have meant that even more people today would not know, or would have forgotten.

This doesn't even take into account the balancing of truth vs. life. CNN has to hire locals, if for no other reason than as a source of contacts with potential sources. If the U.S. government has to conceal information to protect sources, surely CNN might have to do the same?

Posted by: rvman at April 11, 2003 10:14 AM

spin;

I think people in the US knew that this guy was a murderous bastard, and that torture is widespread. I don't think that's an issue.

CNN is undoubtedly aware that their reports influence a significant portion of US public opinion and that because of this they hold tremendous power by deciding what to report and what not to report, but at the same time we can't decide for CNN what they should or should not report. Their ethics should hold them to that.

I can't decide what anybody reports, but I sure as heck can question the ethics of their decisions.

Again, if this happened in 1990-91, they shouldn't have hired any more Iraqis because that puts them in danger.

Is that not a fair question to ask?

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 10:17 AM

Hey, I was an English instructor, and I tried HARD to teach research and critical thought, but I suspect the kids who were raised on too much tv and instant gratification really just didn't want to take the time out...It's often a case of you can lead a horse to water...

Nonetheless, I think this situation stinks. What stinks the most is the spinning the newsies do, regardless of the true morality of the issues. Dancing with the devil is a dangerous occupation, it's true. But it looks like too many mangements think their ratings will be better supporting the "US Government is Wicked" spin, or whatever else is popular and so to get the ratings they want, they spin it.

Forget journalistic ethics. As the saying goes, money talks, and bs walks...

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 10:21 AM

Where were all the 'courageous journalists' we always hear about when all this was going on.
So much for the myth that journalists (like soldiers) are willing to put the greater good ahead of their own well-being.

Posted by: ceallac at April 11, 2003 10:23 AM

Also note first post and comments on this last night at 11:37 p.m.

Here

Posted by: Christopher Rake at April 11, 2003 10:29 AM

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021028&s=foer102802&c=2

read it and weep

Posted by: iceman at April 11, 2003 10:30 AM

From Slate.com

http://slate.msn.com/id/2081306/

... Mickey's Assignment Desk #2: Should Jordan really have withheld the news that Uday Hussein intended to kill his brothers-in-law, two of the most valuable defectors we had? Jordan did it to save the life of an Iraqi translator, whom he was convinced Uday would kill if he went with the story. On the other hand, Jordan doesn't seem to have warned the brothers-in-law, who subsequently were killed. ... Did Jordan pass the news on to the U.S. government? That might have lent some substance to Saddam's otherwise seemingly delusional claim that Jordan was really a spy for the U.S. -- but the way out of that dilemma, for Jordan, was to publish. Take it away, Jack Shafer! ... 12:25 A.M.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 10:30 AM

For those of you who don't think CNN is compromised (and I agree with those who said that CNN is not likely to be alone I that), I invite you to peruse Eamon Jordan's October 2002 interview with WNYC radio, in which he lies and lies and lies again about CNN's "forthrigthness" and "accuracy."

http://www.wnyc.org/onthemedia/transcripts_102502_jordan.html

Some exceprts:


EASON JORDAN: Well absolutely. I mean we work very hard to report forthrightly, to report fairly and to report accurately and if we ever determine we cannot do that, then we would not want to be there; but we do think that some light is better than no light whatsoever....

EASON JORDAN: We'd very much like to be there if there's a second war; but-- we are not going to make journalistic compromises in an effort to make that happen, being mindful that in wartime there is censorship on all sides, and we're prepared to deal with a certain amount of censorship as long as it's not-- extreme, ridiculous censorship where -- which we've actually seen a number of cases in previous conflicts -- not just with Iraq. But-- sure! We want to be there, but it's --we don't want to be there come hell or high water. We want to be there if we can be there and operate as a responsible news organization.

(Emphasis added.)

In other words, Mr. Jordan did not merely maintain a discreet silence about certain things; he actually went out of his way to lie to the American people, to convince them that CNN was not compromising its journalistic principles, and that they were reporting "forthrightly," "fairly," and "accurately," which he has now admitted was entirely untrue.

How can anyone continue to defend this creature and his organization?

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 10:36 AM

Eason Jordan quoted in the TNR article:

"When I asked CNN's Jordan to explain why his network is so devoted to maintaining a perpetual Baghdad presence, he listed two reasons: "First, because it's newsworthy; second, because there's an expectation that if anybody is in Iraq, it will be CNN." "

In other words: It gives CNN one up on the competition, and it gives me (as the head of the News Group) one up on people who want my job. Implication: As far as my Iraqi employees are concerned, things are tough everywhere, what's your point? And as far as the "journalistic standards" for reporting truth is concerned, I don't get it, what's your question again?

Posted by: Dave at April 11, 2003 10:36 AM

ScottM: Good work digging that up.

Posted by: Dave at April 11, 2003 10:38 AM

I'm at work and can't see a TV. Is this being covered at all on Fox or CNN?

Posted by: DSmith at April 11, 2003 10:44 AM

Paula Zhan interviewed Jordan this morning. And they talked a bit about it on C-SPAN.

None of them raised questions about journalistic ethics.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 10:45 AM

Perhaps it would be wise to stop for a moment here and remember something that is almost forgotten: freedom of the press does not mean freedom of newspapers or tv or websites alone. It means the freedom to disseminate information by any means available. This includes books, and I have read a great deal about the horror of the late government of Iraq, in media not owned by advertising. The information was there for anyone who was willing to look.

Posted by: Jrm at April 11, 2003 10:47 AM

Dave (and everyone): Actually, someone else posted a link to it on FreeRepublic.com.

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 10:49 AM

I don't believe I'm hearing this right, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Are some people excusing Jordan because other signs of torture were available from other sources?

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 10:51 AM

... and bye the bye, how the heck are you guys getting this web site to post italics?

Posted by: Jrm at April 11, 2003 10:51 AM

No, no, no, ye gods, no! It's just a case of 'Put not your trust in princes.'

All such data should be cross checked, is all I meant to say, and the information was there if you did so.

No, no excuses for CNN. They sold out.

Posted by: Jrm at April 11, 2003 10:56 AM

ElCap: completely fair questions to ask. I just want to make sure people don't start to think freedom of speech equals right to decide a news organizations publication policy.

I think CNN acted unethically but this should not be surprising anyone.

Posted by: spin at April 11, 2003 10:58 AM

How many bloggers would post a story, knowing that act would result in the death of at least one other person?

CNN, and every other news organization operating in Saddam's Iraq, was ethically compromised from Day One. It is impossible to engage in free and open journalism in a totalitarian society, Anyone, including CNN, who claims otherwise is distorting reality.

I'm sure it wasn't unusual for Iraqi employees of Western organizations to be interrogated and tortured. I'm sure that it also wasn't unusual for many of those Iraqi employees to be on the payroll of Iraqi intelligence. And, from my own experience in the Middle East, it wasn't unusual for people to think that Western reporters were working for U.S. or Israeli intelligence. Certainly, I met very few Arabs who weren't convinced that the U.S. government determined what aired on CNN.

A news organization has no ethical mandate to report anything and everything it knows, regardless of circumstance. Decisions to kill, delay or modify stories are the essence of editorial decision making. CNN would have broken no new ground in reporting this story, but they would have placed more lives at risk.

What CNN and other Western news organizations can be faulted for is not highlighting the fact that they were all working under Saddam's thumb. This -- not yet another story about Saddam's murders -- is the "big story" they failed to cover.

Posted by: enloop at April 11, 2003 11:02 AM

I don't have too much of a problem with them not directly reporting such stories but...

why not leaks? they are so damn good about it anyway. Why not leak non-attributed stories to to other news networks and let them run somewhat anonymous stories at the very least.

and how could they not have warned Saddam's 2 half-brothers like they did with Jordan's King Hussein? those 2 were obviously aware of danger, but had they heard a direct quote from Uday by the head of CNN's news, maybe they would have been less likely to die and they could have continued to provide us with valuable information.

...at the least he should be haunted by those 2 lives...i wonder how many others

Posted by: alex at April 11, 2003 11:11 AM

Shame on CNN.

Posted by: General Patton, in France at April 11, 2003 11:18 AM

enloop:

I don't think anyone is saying that CNN should have reported without concern for Iraqi lives. I am saying that CNN should have left Iraq when it because clear that they could not report honestly anyway. It might still have been necessary for them to suppress some infomation they had already gathered, but at least they wouldn't have been compromised any further.

I am also saying that Eason Jordan is a lying skunk who deliberately deceived the American people about the character of CNN's Iraq coverage:

http://www.wnyc.org/onthemedia/transcripts_102502_jordan.html

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 11:20 AM

Too bad they didn't have a similar concern for the lives of coalition troops.

Posted by: bub at April 11, 2003 11:23 AM

How many bloggers would post a story, knowing that act would result in the death of at least one other person?

I'm not a blogger, but I wouldn't.

At the same time, I would take myself and others out of that situation.

I would also have warned the 2 that went back to Iraq as to the threat expressed directly to me.

I wouldn't have made statements like the ones posted by ScottM.


We'd very much like to be there if there's a second war; but-- we are not going to make journalistic compromises in an effort to make that happen, being mindful that in wartime there is censorship on all sides, and we're prepared to deal with a certain amount of censorship as long as it's not-- extreme, ridiculous censorship where -- which we've actually seen a number of cases in previous conflicts -- not just with Iraq.

Also, I wouldn't try so hard to be so "balanced" like in the above statement. Given what he knew, why bother trying to say "censorship on both" sides?

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 11:24 AM

BTW, no it's not worth it to compromise yourself so much in order to get an office in Baghdad.

With the threats and censorship they were getting, their report was just not worth it. This is a good example;

The New Republic : Air War

When her colleagues turned their cameras on, officials with bullhorns instructed the crowd to increase the volume of their chants. "Everyone knows they're a sham," says the journalist. "But CNN in Atlanta is telling Nic Robertson that he has to file a story. He doesn't have anything else to work with. So he shows the demonstration."

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 11:32 AM

I can understand that CNN and the other news media were controlled in Iraq, and that for years I realized that they could only cover what the regime would let them.

BUT

why choose a spin that is saying something like: "I don't care if our comfort level is bought on the blood of suffering people" or "We choose our spin by what gets us ratings" or "Since I came of age during Vietnam, I will declare the US still wrong on foreign policy no matter what." or maybe all three together.

I am just totally disgusted at the whole news industry doing this sort of amoral action. It's not that the press was controlled and they didn't acknowledge that they were controlled. It's that they spun a view to the public, to shape public opinion (and maybe that was shaped by public opinion) that could only be morally held if they DID NOT KNOW what was really happening.

Posted by: Knitting a Conundrum at April 11, 2003 11:34 AM

Knitting a Conundrum, exactly, and well said.

Posted by: DSmith at April 11, 2003 11:37 AM

ScottM:

The point is that CNN and every other news organization was compromised as soon as they met the Iraqi government's conditions for being in the country. It should not have required the detention and torture of a local employee to make CNN -- or its viewers -- realize the nature of the position in which they had placed themselves.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that all Iraqis working for Western news organizations were detained and tortured. (I'm assuming that "detention" and "torture" were essentially synonymous under Saddam.) And those two exiles placed their lives at risk as soon as the crossed the border into Jordan. And they knew it. Uday's statement to this CNN character that he would try to kill them wasn't much of a revelation.

Debates on coverage of individual stories can go on forever (and I don't think CNN had much of a story here). But, when considering the larger issue -- Should a news organization remain in a country that restrains its behavior and movements, controls who it can speak with, and monitors the content of its stories? -- we have to balance a lack of news against distorted and incomplete news.

Posted by: enloop at April 11, 2003 11:41 AM

we have to balance a lack of news against distorted and incomplete news.

It's better not to report blatant propaganda, which you are afraid to question at the risk of your employees being killed.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 11:49 AM

THey're talking about this on CNN right now with Brent Sadler.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 11:51 AM

When her colleagues turned their cameras on, officials with bullhorns instructed the crowd to increase the volume of their chants. "Everyone knows they're a sham," says the journalist. "But CNN in Atlanta is telling Nic Robertson that he has to file a story. He doesn't have anything else to work with. So he shows the demonstration.

This illustrates the problem of putting a news organization in a totalitarian state. Robertson, like all reporters, wants to do what his boss is telling him to do: Get Me A Story. But, in order to produce that story, he has to omit one very important fact: The demonstrators are being controlled and managed by officials of that totalitarian state. If he broadcasts that bit about the bullhorns, he can count on it being the last report he, and possibly CNN, ever does from Iraq,

Should CNN and all the others pulled of Iraq and run stories fully disclosing the constraints and threats they were under? Perhaps, since they weren't reporting much real news anyway. But, there are few saints in the world, and even fewer in the news business.

Posted by: enloop at April 11, 2003 11:53 AM

Actually having work in the radio and TV business for 15 years you would be shocked to find out how many important stories are killed, not covered or sanitized right here in the US for reasons that don't have much more to do with not getting access to the Mayors office or not getting anymore information from a valuable source or getting your press pass to the pentagon revoked.

The conundrum of a journalists is if you report a particular story that you know will anger a source, you have lost that source and your living depends one being able to get information it is likely you will not report it. This kind of thing is inherent in the media and has been going on essentially forever.

Posted by: Rick DeMent at April 11, 2003 11:56 AM

look at the apologists--look at what they're saying. It all boils down to the same lefty crap we always hear..

well, yeah CNN did that, but look at what EVERYONE ELSE is doing--I bet they did it too. And you'd do it to, right? right?

makes you gag.

Posted by: jack at April 11, 2003 11:57 AM

enloop:

"The point is that CNN and every other news organization was compromised as soon as they met the Iraqi government's conditions for being in the country. It should not have required the detention and torture of a local employee to make CNN -- or its viewers -- realize the nature of the position in which they had placed themselves."

I'll go along with that. Neither CNN nor any other organization should have agreed to such conditions in the first place.

But I wonder if any other organization sent its minions out to lie to the people the way that skunk Eason Jordan did?

Yeah, I know I'm harping on that interview a lot, but that's because I think its important that Jordan did not merely maintain silence about CNN's distortions of the truth, but went out of his way to deny to the American people that such distortions existed. He tried to convince the American people that what CNN was saying about Iraq was soemthing close to the whole truth. This is indefensible, and I hope (vainly, I suppose) that CNN crashes and burns and Eason Jordan spends the rest of his life working at McDonald's for minimum wage.

Posted by: ScottM at April 11, 2003 11:59 AM

Should CNN and all the others pulled of Iraq and run stories fully disclosing the constraints and threats they were under? Perhaps, since they weren't reporting much real news anyway. But, there are few saints in the world, and even fewer in the news business.

Why is there even a need to say that "nobody is perfect"? You are providing some valid comments here, but this line is not even necessary I think. Maybe I'm getting you wrong, but it sounds to me like you're saying "everybody does it, so what?". Sorry if I'm interpreting your message incorrectly.

Access to Iraq from CNN only provided pro Iraqi regime propaganda. Knowing what the now say the always knew, it was definetly not worth it to have their office there. In the end, they got kicked out, and were being outscooped by other news organizations.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 12:04 PM

It's a shame that Brill's Content is no longer publishing. As a media watchdog, they were very effective and observant.

I think, however, that the majority of the American people, at least, realize how slanted news coverage is. I know that is why I get news from as many sources as possible to try to get a fairly objective view.

Posted by: Malik23 at April 11, 2003 12:07 PM

The truth? You cant handle the truth!

Posted by: mobties at April 11, 2003 12:57 PM

ElCapitanAmerica:

I am not arguing, simplistically, that "everyone does it". I also wouldn't agree that CNN and the others were broadcasting pure Iraqi propaganda.

I'm just saying that a decision to put a news crew in a totalitarian society -- not just Iraq, any of them -- also entails a decision to accept government restraints and, at a minimum, attempts to control the content of your reports. In the case of regime whose willingness to torture and kill is well known, it also entails a decision to place both your U.S. and your local staff at risk.

So, the question is, I think, that news people see is this: Is it better to place my people at risk to send back what I already know will be compromised reports, but reports that will contain an element of reality; or should I send no one, at the risk of not providing any coverage and losing viewers/readership to others organizations who do put people in country?

CNN chose to put people in country. They can be faulted for that, but they could also be faulted for staying out.

As for the specific stories involved: Reports of torture and killings in Iraqi jails were commonplace. The only thing newsworthy about the torture of a CNN employee is the fact that he worked for CNN. I don't think that merits putting it on air. As for Uday's threats, again, officials defecting from Saddam's Iraq didn't need CNN to tell them that their lives were at risk. The threat should have been no surprise to them or to Jordan or the U.S. However, if I was willing to sever my ties with Uday, I would have aired that particular story.

Posted by: enloop at April 11, 2003 01:02 PM

Rick DeMent: Yes, so true. My local newspaper won a Pulitzer for covering a story about a corrupt county and city government, which was hiding a problem with the local, contaminated, water supply. And MOST carefully did not cover a story that might have won another, about the largest employer in the county, which has been polluting for years.

Matter of fact, they fired one of the reporters who wrote the story that won the prize, for insisting they cover the pollution story.

Posted by: Jrm at April 11, 2003 01:09 PM

enloop;

I'm sorry, but I don't think it's worth it to submit yourself to such restrains and put people in danger just because, as Mr. Jordan said "because there's an expectation that if anybody is in Iraq, it will be CNN".

That's bullshit. And now, I think less of CNN than before.

I didn't mind when Nic Robertson was reporting from Jordan (after he was kicked out), to me, it's not that important that he be right there just for that.

All their reports from Baghdad to me, serve only for propaganda purposes in light of this revelation. It's not worth losing your reputation so that you can get images of staged votes and staged marches.

Sorry for being so foolishly simplistic, but I want the best possible information, not "exclusivity" and "access".

So CNN has a buerau in Cuba, then by this revelation, I should expect that Castro is part of the editoral process no?

Also, Mr. Jordan lied, as shown in the quotes above. I guess lying in interviews is not an important matter.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 01:17 PM

This isn't a left or right issue it's about what we as "the public" expect and what is the reality of the news business. That has everything to do with it. I mean if it makes you feel good demonize CNN to your hearts content, what do I care? But at the end of the day nothing will change because its inherent, unchangeable and it will only get worse as media outlets get larger and less diverse.

There are people who have the ability to risk their jobs for principal, those people are the very few. And in a uber competitive industry like broadcasting there are way too many who will play the game by whatever rules are dictated and to think otherwise is naive.

Posted by: Rick DeMent at April 11, 2003 01:37 PM

I rather be naive than to accept that it should be OK to deceive the public in this way, endanger people and serve as the propaganda arm of a brutal dictatorship.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at April 11, 2003 01:53 PM

ElCapitanAmerica:

I'm not trying to defend or to attack Jordan or CNN. Just attempting to explain some of the issues that, I believe, were at play. Viewers who fault CNN for broadcasting propaganda can just as easily be faulted themselves for failing to understand the nature of totalitarianism. (Why would anyone expect Saddam's people to do anything but atttempt to sway CNN reportage in their favor? Why would anyone be surprised that they lied?)

About Cuba: If the Cuban government assigns minders to reporters, controls where they go and who they speak to, and monitors the content of their reports (effectively making their continued presence in Cuba hostage to gov't acceeptance of these reports)...well, then, yes, I'd take reporting from Cuba with a large grain of salt, too. That doesn't mean reporters in Cuba are all toadies and lackeys working for Castro. It means they're reporters working in a difficult and ethically ambiguous situation.

It is in the nature of any totalitarian state to control the behavior of journalists and their content.

Posted by: enloop at April 11, 2003 02:11 PM

Knitting a Conundrum... PLEASE quit posting the same thing repeatedly. You want to blame all of the media and you even mention Fox did this.

Let's review...

Of the 6 major networks which one was the ONLY one to have a crew in Baghdad when the bombs started falling?
ANSWER:CNN

Which was the FIRST to be tossed out?
ANSWER: FOXNews.

I mailed them at the time and congratulated them on thier accomplishments.

-----------

To those morons who suggest CNN was right to protect their sources that argument works the first time. This lasted 12 YEARS! If they left Iraq 11.99 years ago I could respect them for it.

----------

Consider this... THEY JUST ADMITED to be biased toward Saddam for 12 years. Something most of us have been accusing them of and they denied.

----------

And consider this also....

They are an accessory to murder. They helped Sadam stay in power and in many states in the Union that would make then an accessory to all his crimes. IN SOME STATES he would not just be an accessory, he could be tried for Saddam's crimes.

---------

Morally, this man is Saddam.

---------

flame me at will - clickz AT planetzat.commie

Posted by: Paul at April 11, 2003 02:38 PM

Scott M:

Thanks for the link you provided on Eason Jordan's October 2002 comments, which he now implicitely admits was a complete LIE.

There is one point I'd like to add to your comments. Ever since Watergate, the phrase "the coverup is worse than the crime" has been something of a cliche among journalists. Jordan's comments in October 2002 sure sound like a coverup to me, and should be an even bigger scandal than his recent admission that he allowed CNN to, in essence parrot Saddam's party line.
Of course, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for consistency from the journalistic "profession."

Posted by: Sean at April 11, 2003 02:40 PM

Shouldn’t Jordan at least be obligated to run an on-air retraction on CNN? Maybe something like this:

In October, 2002, I asserted that CNN had a ‘spine’ and would never sacrifice accuracy in order to obtain a good story. This was not correct. In fact, CNN has no spine. We are a bunch of filth-dwelling worms lacking
in any backbone whatsoever. Furthermore, those of us who work at CNN have consistently demonstrated, now more than ever, that we would gladly sell their fellow man up the river by condemning him to a lifetime
of unspeakable torture and cruelty, and create a grossly inaccurate view of the world in so doing in order to obtain exclusive access to the tyrants and butchers inflicting such torture, thereby allowing us to make
a few extra dollars selling soap and sports cars to you, the viewing audience, who we have absolute contempt for.

We sincerely regret the error.

Posted by: Sean at April 11, 2003 03:00 PM

Zing!

Posted by: DSmith at April 11, 2003 04:03 PM

POOCH POOCH POOCH POOCH POOCH POOCH POOCHY POOCHY POOCHY POOCHY POOCHY POOCHAY POOCHAY POOCHAY POOCHAY

HORAY FOR POOCHAY

Posted by: POOCH at April 14, 2003 10:11 AM

To all of the IDIOTS who think CNN shouldn't be held accountable for its silence consider this.
These liberal jerk-offs were only too happy to declare that American troops "Gunned down" (A DIRECT QUOTE!) Iraqi woman and children at a check point. CNN has done nothing since before and during the war except criticize the administration and give enormous amounts of airtime to cover all of the Moon-unit Protests. But then again, what can we expect from Ted and Jane's network?
And now we find out that they had first hand knowledge of just how bad Sadam's regime really was. I guess it was to CNN's advantage to keep a lid on it. What a bunch of disgusting, unethical hypocritical,liberal assholes!
I have blocked CNN from my cable box.

Posted by: Tim Freckman at April 14, 2003 11:30 AM

MORE LIES from Eason Jordan:

May 7, 1999 Atlanta Business Journal (http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/1999/05/10/tidbits.html)

Forget Serbia, forget Iraq.

"The government we have the toughest time with is the U.S. government," said Eason Jordan, CNN's president for global newsgathering, at the network's annual World Report Conference May 4.
Because of trade embargoes, the U.S. government is involved in where CNN opens its bureaus, Jordan said. CNN has been trying for a year to open a permanent bureau in Baghdad, Iraq, and now has permission from the
Iraqis, he said. "I've [recently] been thrown out of the White House pleading this case."

Thanks to Michael Fadus for the original link.

Posted by: Sean at April 14, 2003 08:09 PM
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