Press accused of too much "incitement", not enough "feel good" in Iraq

The press is coming in for a bit of a bloody nose from various quarters over its coverage of what is going on in Iraq. The exact charges depend on who's delivering the news: the Arab media is accused of "incitement", while American outfits get called to task for being too "negative" and not providing enough happy news for American viewers to balance out reports of US soldiers' deaths. The accusations are essentially the same - the big difference is the intended audience of the reports.

The US-appointed Governing Council in Iraq has banned Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyah from covering official activities in Iraq for two weeks. The move follows earlier threats to expel reporters from the two organizations for a month.

The council
said the action was taken as a warning to the stations and other broadcasters for allegedly inciting anti-US violence...

US officials have accused the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya of giving too much prominence to anti-US attacks and providing a forum for backers of ousted president Saddam Hussein.

The council statement barring them from official functions for two weeks fell short of the vow by Entefadh Qanbar, a spokesman for the body's current president Ahmad Chalabi, to shut down their offices temporarily.
Chalabi has been after Al Jazeera for a long time. Previously he claimed to have documents showing that some Al Jazeera reporters were working for Iraqi intelligence although, oddly, these documents never seem to have been published. It isn't likely that the battle against Al Jazeera is over yet.

Note: I wonder if the Bush administration will point to Al Jazeera as the "missing link" between Saddam and Al Qaeda following Spain's detention of an Al Jazeera reporter.

Moving on, some US lawmakers who recently visited Iraq complained that the American media reports too much on what happens after Iraqi guerillas, high on Al Jazeera's concentrated doses of "incitement", attack the US occupation forces. According to these members of Congress, journalists often do not notice all of the "good stuff" happening in Iraq. Their charges are almost identical to the occupational authority's characterization of Al Jazeera's coverage:
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the committee's ranking member, said, "The media stresses the wounds, the injuries, and the deaths, as they should, but for instance in Northern Iraq, Gen. [Dave] Petraeus has 3,100 projects - from soccer fields to schools to refineries - all good stuff and that isn?t being reported."
I don't know how much football (soccer) Skelton has played in his life, but considering that all you need to play football is a patch of flat ground and a ball, the fact that General Petraeus has a project dedicated to "soccer fields" doesn't strike me as being more newsworthy than US soldiers being killed.

Skelton's colleague Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) commented on what he described as a "hysterical" CBS analysis following an attack that left three soldiers dead:
"CBS got it exactly wrong, the media portrayed it as an act of sophistication and a regrouping of Saddam's forces, when in fact, it's an indication of disorganization and desperation."
How a successful attack against soldiers of the world's most powerful army - one instance of what is a daily occurence - was an indication of "disorganization" and "desperation", Wilson doesn't say.

USA Today weighs in with a piece examining how reporters see the situation. It is clear that, despite the overall poor situation in Iraq and what the members of Congress think, the desire for "sunshine and puppy dog"-type stories is there:
The Baghdad that Bennett sees is a city where gunfire erupts every night and dozens of Iraqis are reported dead in the morning. Looting and robberies are common. ''There is a mounting terrorist threat, and the people who want to kill American soldiers are getting more organized,'' he says.
Despite this,
Bennett plans to pitch a story about the improving scene in Iraq, where electricity is being restored daily and people are getting back to work.
Sometimes there appears to be pressure to find these "good news" stories:
CBS' Kimberly Dozier is increasingly pessimistic. She has made an effort to find some ''good news'' stories, sensing that her supervisors and viewers are tiring of ''bash the Americans'' reports.
What these charges boil down to is this: Arabs must not hear too much about succesful attacks on US soldiers or how bad things are in Iraq, because that "incites" them to attack the occupational authority, while Americans must not hear too much about successful attacks on US soldiers or how bad things are in Iraq, because that is too "negative", gives people the wrong idea of how things really are, and prevents Americans from having a "feel-good" attitude about themselves and their country.

Maybe this media strategy should be called the "George W. Bush method" of dealing with news.

(The Hill and USA Today links via The Agonist.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?