Bad day for Journalists

This came in today from the Kurdistan Journalists’ Union while I was taking care of last minute logistics before heading out toward Kalek and/or Kirkuk. (Sorry for the light last few days… I’ve been getting my legs under me, so to speak.)

Kurdistan Journalists’ Union’s Statement on the way Arabic Media channels deal with Operation Iraqi Freedom
While Iraq is witnessing a decisive war to liberate it from 35 long years under the Iraqi Ba’athist Regime’s repressive rule, the world Mass Media correspondents and journalists are now continuously reporting the events of Operation Iraqi Freedom using the latest technology invented in the field of communication. This coalition operation is extremely important, not only for the lives of the Iraqi peoples, but also for the whole Region and the world, as it will also impacts [sic] many political equities. [sic]
At the same time, and as events are unfolding, we emphasize on the importance and effect of journalism on today’s world. And while free Media activities are restricted in the areas controlled by the Iraqi regime, we find that Iraqi Kurdistan Region is maintaining a real democracy for 12 years that paved the way for journalists, representing different media channels in the entire world, to report as freely as they like benefiting from the atmosphere of freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan.
We believe that the regional Media Channels in general and Arabic ones in particular, have the right to report on the events from their own point of view and practice their rights as journalists; since the freedoms of knowledge and reporting news are a part of the general freedoms. But unfortunately, some Arabic Media Channels, especially the Satellite Televisions are trying to play down and degrade the Iraqi people’s demands and wishes of freedom and democracy. They still turn a blind eye on over 35 years of isolation, repression, suffering and the dreams of Iraqi peoples in their coverage of news and events.
These Arabic Satellite channels have used a bias language in portraying the facts they reported about the suffering of the Iraqi people. They not only became a mouthpiece for the demagogic policies of that dying fascist regime, but they started to use covers of Islam and Arabism in spreading the regime’s propaganda. They exceeded the rules of true journalism, trod on all the principles of freedom, democracy and human rights and became a tool in the hands of Saddam Hussein.
We as Kurdistan journalists consider the Arabic Mass Media as a party that stands against the process of Liberating Iraq from dictatorship; therefore, Kurdistan journalists and all the freedom and democracy seekers of all Iraq, including all its ethnic groups and religions, strong condemn this negative propaganda that is released by the Arabic Satellite Televisions.
[Emphasis added — Chris]
Furthermore, the Kurdistan Journalists Union strongly rejects such -address- [sic] that these Arabic Satellite Televisions are using in describing the current general and political situation in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in particular, and those of Iraq in general, and we consider their address as a defamation campaign.
And as Iraqi Kurdistan Region is always keen to maintain the freedoms of speech and journalism, and as there is no censorship on all journalistic activity in the region to a degree that even the correspondents of world satellite televisions testify to this fact, we say that these Arabic Sat. TVs should have conveyed their news and reports truthfully and in an objective language so that the public opinion will not be misled. Therefore, we call upon the correspondents of the Sat. TVs to abandon misleading styles of reporting and act realistically as they cover the events.
We reiterate our commitment to facilitate journalistic activities in Kurdistan.
The Consecutive Council of
Kurdistan Journalists Union
Erbil City
4th April 2003

While the Kurds are justifiably proud of the media freedoms they enjoy in their region, this statement shows the depth of support for the war among the Kurdish leadership. That support is reflected among average Kurds, as well.
Americans — and by extension, the war — are very popular here. I’ve had to force money into merchants’ hands. The smiles are genuine, and the offers to help are too numerous to accept. This may be the only place other place earth — except the USA, of course — where Americans are so well-liked.
All that aside, I can’t help but worry. Today has been a bad day for journalists, with personnel from Al Jazeera and Reuters killed today in the fighting in Baghdad. A Spanish (I don’t know the affiliation) cameraman was also killed. The Reuters cameraman, a Ukrainian, was killed, and several other journalists injured, when an American tank opened fire on the Palestine Hotel, scoring a direct hit on the Reuters office. The Americans say the tank was responding to a sniper in the hotel, but reporters on the floors above and below the Reuters office say they heard no sniper fire or RPG fire in the area in the 20 minutes before the tank fired. In several videos of the attack filmed by independent correspondents, there was no sound of small arms fire.
I don’t want to criticize the tank commander, since the only thing I know about this is what I can watch on BBC right now. But some inner voice asks why the tank opened up on a target that was well-known as the headquarters for western journalists. I’m not saying journalists were targeted, but was there no alternative to lobbing a tank shell into a hotel?
Today shows the danger of this whole damn thing, not only to soldiers, but to journalists and civilians, too. If a tank gunner is willing to open up on a hotel to take out a sniper, would he open up on a hospital? An apartment building?
*Sigh* I guess we should chalk this up to a tragic mistake, just one of those things that happen. After all, the journos were there on their own free will. Unlike the citizens of Baghdad, they made the choice to be in the firing line. But it’s still sobering reminder of the perils of war.
In an attempt to whistle past the graveyard, I taped up the windows, side panels and roof of my driver’s car today with “TV” (the universal symbol for press around here.) But blue tape won’t stop a JDAM once it’s been targeted. Freydoon, my driver, is a good guy, and loyal. He told me today that a friend of his, a peshmerga named Isam, is dying. He was in the convoy attacked two days in the friendly fire incident that killed up to 20 peshmergas. With the journalists’ deaths in Baghdad, and the news of Freydoon’s friend, I look south to the front lines with apprehension.

3 Comments on “Bad day for Journalists”

  1. Il punto di vista dei giornalisti curdi

    Chris Allbritton, l’inviato speciale di Internet in Iraq, pubblica un comunicato del sindacato dei giornalisti curdi. Questo il passaggio chiave: We as Kurdistan journalists consider the Arabic Mass Media as a party that stands against the process of L…


    Independent weblog journalist Christopher Allbritton examines the loss of 10 journlaists in 21 days of warfare. He also takes a look at that statement issued by Kurdistan Journalists’ Union’s Statement – the one that tackles an Arabic media’s response …