Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Is The Media Telling The Truth About Iraq?

On April 5th, I participated online in a live event hosted by Reuters and Global Voices,which included a video of the panel discussion and real-time blogging from around the world, discussing the much talked about topic of media bias when covering the war in Iraq.

This was a great event, with diverse opinions represented, and panelists in the room included Roger Cohen,In't Writer-at-Large for the NY Times; Iraqi photo journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad; Alastair MacDonald, Reuters Iraq Bureau Chief; Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, Chief of Strategic Communication, Combined Arms Center, U.S. Army; Paul Holmes, Editor for Political and General News, Reuters; and James Taranto, Editor of Opinion Journal.com

It's clear that everyone agrees covering the war is challenging on many levels, and in a country that is clearly divided and polarised, "If you write a 'good news' story from Iraq you are immediately identified as an apologist for the administration ... and if you write something critical then you're in the other camp" according to Roger Cohen, writer at large for The NY Times.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi photojournalist who works for the Guardian, made a powerful statement:
" It's a civil war, people are getting killed every single day every single hour (...) I'm being a bit harsh and radical because I feel people deserve to be told the full truth which is that there is civil war there...there is a massacre there. (...) Let's not argue is it better now than Saddam (...) It's a civil war there and we are still shying away from the words Civil War."

I do encourage you to listen to what Abdul-Ahad said, in it's entirety as part of a segment on "The Complete Story". While I don't agree with much of what he offered up during the discussion, on the issue of civil war in Iraq, I do. It lends further credence to Michael Yon's perspective:

Nobody knows what the future will bring for Iraq. In my opinion, it’s already in a civil war though many people seem afraid to say it. Actually, the reluctance is more likely ordinal in nature–-no one wants to be the first to say what many know to be true. Many now-stable democracies have suffered civil wars.

I wrote those words more than one year ago.


Throughout 2005, I said in writing, on the radio and television that Iraq is in a state of Civil War. It had been in that state for decades. I’d point to all the kindling heaped around the country and point to the smoke on the horizon, but most people politely dismissed the warnings. Now the fire is bigger. Listen. Listen! Iraq is in a state of Civil War. Much bigger than it was a year ago, and next year it will be bigger still, if we do not recognize that there is a FIRE!


Zaki Chehab, editor of London-based Arab newspaper Al Hayat, also made many interesting points.While he felt that the situation in Iraq is not as positive as some would like to believe, he stressed that"Security is the most important issue and it cannot be solved by leaving Iraq. America cannot withdraw from Iraq tomorrow - it will be a victory of Al Queda."

Iraqi blogger Salam Adil offered up a rather prophetic insight:
"The media as a whole has not done its job as a pillar of democracy - and it's failure will be felt for years to come"
Rebecca McKinnon covered the event for Global Voices. Video highlights from the debate are available on Reuters site.

Biased media coverage about Iraq is a small albeit important part of the larger issue of media bias in general. I addressed this larger issue in Bias, What Bias?

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