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Indybay Feature
War Reporting in Iraq: Only Locals Need Apply
by Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch (reposted)
Sunday Mar 4th, 2007 9:42 AM
The Iraq conflict is the great crisis of our era, but television has found it impossible to cover it properly. The dangers to correspondent and crew are too great, and the limitations of being embedded with the US or British armies subvert balanced coverage.

Watching Tony Blair claim progress in Iraq as he announced a partial withdrawal of British troops last week, I was struck for the hundredth time by the favour done to him and President George Bush by the Iraqi insurgents and militias. By killing and kidnapping journalists - and thus making so much of Iraq a media-free zone - they have ensured that the White House and Downing Street can say what they like and get away with it.

Blair spoke of British achievements in security and economic development in Basra, but there were almost no journalists on the ground to check the truth of this. One of the infuriating aspects of covering Iraq in the past three years has been to hear the US and British governments claim that there are large parts of Iraq that are at peace and know it is untrue, but to prove that they are lying would mean getting killed oneself.

Iraq has become almost impossible to cover adequately by the old system of foreign correspondents, cameraman or woman, and crew. It is simply too dangerous for a foreigner to move freely around Baghdad and the rest of the country. It is bad enough for print journalists like myself but cameramen, by the nature of their trade, have to stand in the open and make themselves visible.

The list of journalists I knew who have been killed covering wars has grown horribly long. My best friend, David Blundy, was shot dead by a sniper in El Salvador in 1989. Mazen Dana, a cheerful, skilful Palestinian cameraman from Hebron, was killed by US soldiers when filming outside Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. Martin Adler, the brave freelance Swedish cameraman, whom I had last seen in the gloomy lobby of the Flowerland Hotel in Baghdad six months earlier, was shot in the back by a man in a crowd in Mogadishu on June 23 last year.

There are all too many more. I remember the al-Arabiya television correspondent killed on camera by a US rocket in Haifa Street in Baghdad. The lens of the camera covering his last moments of life was smeared with blood.

Iraq is worse than previous wars. The Sunni insurgents kill or kidnap cameramen just as they do any foreigner. They regard an Iraqi cameraman as a possible spy. Important events now go unrecorded in a way that has not been true of any other recent conflict.

More
http://counterpunch.org/patrick03032007.html
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