Home      |      Weblog      |      Articles      |      Satire      |      Links      |      About      |      Contact

Militant Islam Monitor > Articles >

December 6, 2005


Forwarded message follows -------
To: nucn...@yahoogroups.com, abolition-cau...@yahoogroups.com,

du-l...@yahoogroups.com, du-wa...@yahoogroups.com, ozpe...@yahoogroups.com,
pandora-proj...@yahoogroups.com, formotherea...@yahoogroups.com
From: davey garland <thunder...@yahoo.co.uk>
Date sent: Tue, 22 Apr 2003 20:29:13 +0100 (BST)
Subject: [DU-WATCH] Indymedia Iraq Send reply to: du-wa...@yahoogroups.com

[ Double-click this line for list subscription options ]

Dear all, this has come in from independent journalists on the ground
in Iraq, who are trying to set up an Indymedia Iraq, with local
students and others who want to distribute the truth of what is going
on in Iraq. Please circulate this on your network, cheers davey
(pandora project)

From: Ramzi Kysia [mailto:rrky...@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, April 18, 2003 06:59 PM

Dear Friends,

I've been able to locate 4 of the students who we worked with on the
dialogue exchange: Haider, Hamza, Walid & Majed. All are very
enthusiastic about starting a newspaper & setting up something like
indymedia baghdad.

Over the next few days, we are going to: - locate a house to rent,
that can serve as an office for the project, as well as office/living
space for VitW & friends here in Iraq.

- compile a list of equipment we have on hand (computers, printers,
cameras, office supplies, etc...)

- compile a list of equipment we *need* (computers, printers,
cameras, office supplies, etc... LOL)

- locate a printing company that can print 10,000 copies a week, of
an Arabic/English newspaper that we are going to start.

We NEED from you:

- MONEY: start raising $$$ *NOW* - this project is going to need
money to pay for rent, equipment, printing costs, and web costs,
ASAP!!! We will work toward making it self-sufficient as soon as
possible, but that, for sure, ain't right now! Voices is sending a
small group of people here (one in a week, a couple of more soon
after) - so we need to send in money & equipment with them.

- EQUIPMENT: for a fact, I *KNOW* that we're going to need at least 2
more computers, 1 more office printer, 2 broadcast-quality video
cameras, and 2 digital cameras. Another satellite modem & satellite
phone would be nice too (as well as $$$ to cover the costs of the
current sat modem over the next, several months).

- WEB HELP: we need help, from the outside, on setting up a website
for the newspaper and/or indymedia Baghdad, where we can post text,
pictures, & video produced here - English *AND* Arabic. Some of these
kids are very web savvy, but the infrastructure is NOT in place for
them to start doing web work from here right now. The war took out
telecommunications in a *big* way - certainly for weeks, likely for

I (we, I hope!) are going to help out with advice, training,
equipment & money - but this is going to be an Iraqi project, from
top to bottom. These folks can finally speak for themselves - let's
help them do that!

Please let me know how all of you can help, ASAP! Let's roll... Love,

For MAI-not (un)subscription information, posting guidelines and
links to other MAI sites please see http://www.flora.org/mai/


Media Coverage: A View from the Ground

By Reese Erlich, Target Iraq
February 28, 2003

Reporters become real friendly, real fast in Iraq. You have a lot
of shared experiences - from poor telecommunications to
suspicious Iraqi officials to exasperating editors back home.

So Bert and I hit it off right away. Bert is the pseudonym I've
chosen for a reporter with a major British media outlet. I'm not
using his real name because I have no desire to get him into
trouble. Reporters will tell things to each other they would
never say publicly. So I'm inviting you into a metaphorical bar
where, after a few beers, reporters let it all hang out. Bert and
I had agreed to share a cab for a ride out of Baghdad. We passed
over the city's modern freeways, reminders of the country's
pre-sanctions wealth.

I mentioned that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding the ruling Baath
party headquarters, which had been destroyed by a U.S. missile

"He has lots of money for that," I noted casually.

"You'd get along fine with my editors," said Bert jovially, in an
accent stuck partway between Oxford and south London. "They love
to hear about Iraqi corruption and bad allocation of resources."

Bert is a political moderate highly critical of Hussein's
government, but feels pressured by his much more conservative
editors. "Whenever I propose stories showing the impact of
sanctions on ordinary Iraqis," he said, "the editors call it 'old
news.'" But the editors never tire of reworking old stories about
corruption and repression in Iraq. Bert has internalized his
editors' preferences and generally files stories he knows they
will like. The alternative is to write stories that will either
never get published or come out buried in the back pages.

The problem goes beyond disputes between reporters and editors.
Most journalists who get plum foreign assignments already accept
the assumptions of empire. I didn't meet a single foreign
reporter in Iraq who disagreed with the notion that the U.S. and
Britain have the right to overthrow the Iraqi government by
force. They disagreed only about timing, whether the action
should be unilateral, and whether a long-term occupation is

Most people in the world, and much of the media outside the U.S.
and Britain, still believe in national sovereignty, the
old-fashioned notion enshrined in the U.N. Charter. No country
has the right to overthrow a foreign government or occupy a
nation, even if that nation horribly represses its own citizens.
If the U.S. can overthrow Hussein, what prevents Russia from
occupying Georgia or other former Soviet republics and installing
friendlier regimes? The permutations are endless.

Despite numerous speeches and briefing papers, the Bush
administration never convincingly demonstrated that Iraq poses an
immediate threat to its neighbors. Unlike 1991 when Iraq occupied
Kuwait, not a single nearby country has said it fears invasion
from Iraq. The U.S. would never take a resolution to attack Iraq
before the U.N. General Assembly because it would lose
overwhelmingly. It prefers backroom deals in the Security

When I raise the issue of sovereignty in casual conversation with
my fellow scribes, they look as if I've arrived from Mars. Of
course the U.S. has the right to overthrow Saddam Hussein, they
argue, because he has weapons of mass destruction and might be a
future threat to other countries. The implicit assumption is that
the U.S. - as the world's sole superpower - has the right to make
this decision. The U.S. must take responsibility to remove
unfriendly dictatorships and install friendly ones. The only
question is whether sanctions or invasion are the most effective
means to this end.

The Bush and Blair administrations are fighting a two-front war:
one against Iraq, another for public opinion at home. The major
media are as much a battleground as the fortifications in
Baghdad. And, for the most part, Bush and Blair have stalwart
media soldiers manning the barricades at home.

The U.S. is supposed to have the best and freest media in the
world, but in my experience, having reported from dozens of
countries, the higher up you go in the journalistic feeding
chain, the less free the reporting.

The typical would-be foreign correspondent graduates from college
and gets a job with a local newspaper or broadcast station. The
pay is low and the hours long. (Small town newspaper reporters
can still start out at less than $18,000 a year.) But after
perhaps two years, they advance up the ladder to bigger media
outlets. After five years or so, some of the more dedicated and
talented reporters get jobs at big city dailies or in major
market TV/radio stations. A few start out freelancing from abroad
and then join a major media outlet, but they are in the minority.

That first few years of reporting are like boot camp. Even the
best college journalism programs give you only the sketchiest
ideas about real reporting. I know. I taught college journalism
for ten years. The university never teaches you to find sources
on fifteen-minutes notice, how to file a story from the field
when cell phones don't work, or how to write an 800-word story in
thirty minutes. The journalist's best education is on the job.

In addition to journalistic skills, young reporters also learn
about acceptable parameters of reporting. There's little formal
censorship in the U.S. media, but you learn who are acceptable or
unacceptable sources. Most corporate officials and politicians
are acceptable, the higher up the better. Prior to Enron's
collapse, for example, CEO Ken Lay could be quoted as an expert
on energy issues and the economy - despite what we know now to be
his rather biased view of those topics.

Many other sources are deemed to be beyond the pale, and are thus
to be ignored or mocked. Black nationalists, progressive labor
union advocates, or Marxists fall into this category. The same
applies to conservatives outside mainstream Washington politics,
such as conservative Muslims and certain rightwing intellectuals.

In Iraq I saw all this first hand. Let's look at Voices in the
Wilderness, for example, a pacifist group based in Chicago. Some
of their leaders had participated in a vigil in the Iraqi desert
right up to the time America began bombing in the 1991 Gulf War.
Voices in the Wilderness has brought hundreds of Americans to
Iraq, including three congressmen in September 2002. It has
community relief projects in Baghdad and has developed excellent
contacts among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

One can agree or disagree with Voices in the Wilderness' views. I
disagree with their pacifist approach, for example. But as
journalists we should recognize them as a legitimate
organization, part of a growing antiwar movement, which mobilized
hundreds of thousands of people in Britain and the U.S. in
September and October 2002.

But that's not the treatment they get from many major media.
Ramzi Kysia, a Voices in the Wilderness organizer who lived in
Baghdad, stopped by the press center one day to drop off a press
release. He invited foreign reporters to cover a visit by
American antiwar teachers to an Iraqi high school.

I was there when Kysia handed the press release to a TV crew. As
soon as he left, the crew didn't even bother to read the entire
press release before declaring that it was propaganda. They
considered Voices to be outside the realm of legitimate sources,
and therefore it could be safely ignored.

Indeed, a few weeks later when Voices held an antiwar march in
Baghdad, John Burns of the New York Times reported the event in a
mocking tone. He noted snidely that Saddam Hussein bans all
demonstrations except those against America (New York Times
10/27/02). While Hussein certainly crushes dissenting opinion,
the protests conducted by Americans in Baghdad who oppose U.S.
policies are worthy of straight reporting. I cannot conceive of
such a mocking tone permeating a New York Times story if Iraqi
dissidents marched in Washington in support of U.S. policy.

The Wall Street Journal (11/4/02) treated Voices more
straightforwardly but in the context of a humorous article about
wacko westerners who visit Iraq as tourists.

In 1990 I took a group of my students to visit the San Francisco
Chronicle. I have been contributing freelance stories to the
Chronicle since 1989. I posed the following hypothetical story
idea to then Chronicle Foreign Service editor David Hipschman.
"What if I wanted to submit a story about Saddam Hussein's secret
mistress?" I asked.

"I would want to see two sources backing up the claim," he said
calmly. "And what if I had the same story saying President Bush
[Sr.] had a mistress?" I asked. He laughed. "I'd want to see
photos of the two of them in bed."

Every experienced reporter knows editors can set a standard of
proof very low or impossibly high. If a reporter misquotes
someone or gets some information wrong while writing an article
critical of Saddam Hussein, editors back home are not likely to
raise significant objections, but if an article critical of U.S.
policy contains the same errors, all hell breaks loose. At a
minimum, someone from the State Department or Pentagon calls to
complain. Conservative media groups and radio talk show hosts may
bring additional pressure. Raymond Bonner, a New York Times
reporter who wrote accurate articles critical of U.S. policy in
El Salvador, was reassigned from that country in the 1980s during
just that sort of conservative campaign.

By the time reporters are ready to become foreign
correspondents - a process that can take ten years or more - they
understand how the game is played. Becoming a foreign
correspondent is a plum job. It's interesting and challenging.
You travel frequently and meet international leaders. You may see
your byline on the front page. The job has gravitas.

And then there's the money. I've conducted an informal survey of
foreign correspondent salaries in countries I've visited.
(Remember, reporters say things to each other they wouldn't tell
the public.) Salaries of full-time radio and print reporters at
the major media that I've met range from $90-$125,000 per year.
That doesn't count TV correspondents, who can make twice that
much or more.

One New York Times reporter based in Africa told me over a beer
one night that being a foreign correspondent is a great step in
the career ladder at the Times. After a few years in Africa, he
planned to move onto a more prestigious foreign assignment before
working his way up the various editors' desks in New York. Times
reporters are acutely aware of international trends, and if they
are to win a Pulitzer Prize, they must report from a place of
major importance. Right now Iraq and the Middle East fill the

Money, prestige, career options, ideological predilections -
combined with the down sides of filing stories unpopular with the
government - all cast their influence on foreign correspondents.
You don't win a Pulitzer for challenging the basic assumptions of

Iraqi officials understood they wouldn't get fair coverage from
many foreign correspondents. So what did they do? They responded
with some of the most unsophisticated, ham-handed behavior I've
ever experienced.

The process begins with getting an Iraqi journalism visa. A phone
call to the Iraqi Interest Section at the end of 2002 revealed
that the acquisition of a journalist visa might take two months
or more. So I tried contacting various high level officials in
Baghdad, who were friends of journalist friends. Strike out. The
Iraqis are very suspicious of reporters they don't know, and even
more suspicious of journalists whose stories they don't like.

Forget about sneaking into the country on a tourist visa as
correspondents do in some repressive countries. (Hypothetical
conversation with a border guard: I've always wanted to visit
Babylon. And, by the way, are those anti-aircraft emplacements
over there?)

Luckily, I learned about my coauthor's delegation to Iraq and got
my name submitted on the list of reporters accompanying the
congressman. We received our visas within ten days. Technically,
the visas were only good for covering the delegation, but I
correctly figured we could arrange to stay longer once in

All reporters had government guides, popularly called "minders."
They helped set up interviews and served as interpreters. They
also made sure you didn't go to certain places or interview
certain people. To show the level of paranoia in Iraq, even NGOs
such as Voices in the Wilderness had minders.

I developed a good rapport with my minder, and he was excellent
at navigating the frustrating Iraqi bureaucracy to make
interviews happen. I wasn't trying to visit a lot of
controversial places. We were refused permission, however, to
visit Saddam City, the most impoverished part of Baghdad.

In late October, after spontaneous demonstrations broke out
demanding to know the whereabouts of Iraqi political prisoners,
the government got very nervous about media coverage. It kicked
out CNN's foreign correspondents and told other reporters they
would be limited to ten-day journalist visas. Later in the year,
the government allowed journalists to stay longer to cover the
weapons inspectors' activities.

Such actions obviously intimidated reporters. They think: Will
the content of my story result in expulsion from the country, or
not being allowed to return? The Iraqi government uses various
forms of intimidation, and it has led to self-censorship by some

It's a classic method used by those in power to intimidate
reporters. If a U.S. president doesn't like certain coverage, the
administration can make it impossible for the offending reporters
to get insider interviews or it can refuse to return phone calls.
Foreign reporters may be forced to leave the country. Reporters
quickly learn to self-censor, or they're taken off the beat.

U.S. and Iraqi media policies have more in common than the
leaders of either country would care to admit.

Excerpted from "Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You"
by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, introduction by Howard Zinn,
afterword by Sean Penn. For more information about the book,
please visit Context Books.

Printer-friendly version   Email this item to a friend