17 March, 2005
Since the start of the 2003 War on Iraq, there have been 13 incidents involving the killing of journalists by US soldiers. All the journalists who have been killed were "unembedded" journalists. No journalist employed by mainstream media such as the BBC or CNN have been killed or abducted in Iraq. Independent media worldwide are finding it difficult to exist in a world controlled by few large corporations and government's controlled public broadcasters.
Information provided by independent media and honest journalists, is the most powerful weapon in the War on Iraq since 1990. The lack of this journalistic credibility and impartiality have contributed the unnecessary killing of more than 2 million Iraqis, a third of them children under the age of 5 years old, as a result of 13-years of criminal sanctions and wars perpetuated by the US and Britain.
To conduct their war with minimum opposition, the US and British administration and military have introduced new phenomenon in journalism. It is called "embedded" journalism, which means journalists do what they are told, and report what they have not witnessed. "Embedded" journalism is a form of fake news operations broadcast as if it was genuine news in the homes of Western TV viewers. The best description of this new phenomenon is propaganda's journalism, an important tool of America's "war on terror".
The first casualty of this phenomenon has been the quality of the news and information to the public. Giant corporations have now moved to own large parts of the media. The US is leading the way in the concentration of media in the hands of few large corporations. America's Online (AOL) owns Netscape, Time magazine, Hollywood's Warner Bros and CNN. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation controls the best selling newspapers in Britain and the US. In Australia, the Murdoch media have very negligence competition. The Murdoch deceptive media coverage, led by Fox News, played an important role in selling the war to the public and continues to provide very deceptive and untruthful picture of Iraq under US Occupation.
Outside the parameter of these giant media corporations and their "embedded" journalists are the few journalists of independent media. Their independent reporting during the War on Iraq has annoyed the US administration, including Donald Rumsfeld and Collin Powell. The Guardian
.html of London reported on 02nd April 2003 that; "A hotel in Basra being used as a base by al-Jazeera's team of correspondents in the city was shelled this morning, the Arabic TV news channel has claimed. The Basra Sheraton, whose only guests are al-Jazeera journalists, received four direct hits this morning during a heavy artillery bombardment, according to the Qatar-based broadcaster." The Guardian added that; "Al-Jazeera had officially advised the Pentagon of all relevant details pertaining to its reporters covering the war on Iraq, as stipulated by relevant international practice and conventions governing reporting wars. The details included official HQs of all its reporters in Basra, Mosul and Baghdad". On 08th April 2003, Al-Jazeera Television reporter Tariq Ayoub was killed by a rocket fired from US plane on the roof of the Palestine Hotel, the most marked media centre in Baghdad. Since the beginning of the war, at least 74 journalists have died in Iraq. To date, there has been no satisfactory and impartial investigation of these mysterious killings of journalists. Although, there is no "evidence" of a systematic policy to kill journalists, it seem that a policy of preventing independent media reporting from the war is the US administration top priority.
The US role in preventing independent news from reaching the public has been widely reported since the invasion of Iraq. Independent journalists were nowhere to see in Iraq, and most of them have been forced to leave the country. The killing of the Italian intelligent agent Nicola Calipari and injuring of Giuliana Sgrena, the award-winning war reporter with the progressive Italian daily newspaper Il Manifesto, by US forces is a case in point.
As Jerry Fresia, a former US Air Force Intelligence officer, writes, "It is reasonable to assume that the US intercepted all phone communication between Italian agents in Iraq and Rome. Are we to believe that in an area near the airport, an area that is intensely hostile according to the US, that they would not be monitoring cell phone signals? He added; "The vehicle in which Nicola and Giuliana were riding wasn't simply a vehicle carrying a hostage to freedom. [The vehicle] was considered a military target". Before her release, Sgrena has admitted that her captors, who have yet to prove of any link to the Iraqi Resistance, have warned her that; "The Americans don't want you to go back" to Italy. 'It was an ambush', Sgrena's partner, Pierre Scolari said.
Giuliana Sgrena is one of the very few endangered species still exist in a world where militarised nations are addicted to violence and public deception. She has eyewitnesses and detailed information regarding the US use of illegal napalm and chemical weapons in the attacks on Fallujah, where thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children were massacred and a vibrant city of 300,000 people was completely destroyed. Fallujah was a no go for independent journalists during the US assault on the city. It is suggested that the US and Britain are in the process of using the Fallujah-style destruction in other cities. In addition, Sgrena has documented evidence of ongoing sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses, torture and rape of Iraqi women by US forces in Iraq. Crimes without witnesses are no crimes in the new US war.
Given the illegality and immorality of the War on Iraq, independent journalists like Giuliana Sgrena and Tariq Ayoub are considered enemy targets. By contrast "embedded" journalists have enjoyed protection and were never in danger at any time. They broadcast from their hotels or from the safety of US tanks. Their jobs are to provide a distorted picture that fit the imperialist propaganda. The victims of this criminal complicity are not only the Iraqi people, but also the citizens of the imperial power. They have to be misled and poorly informed about their government's wars and policy abroad. Public silence is the support needed for legitimacy. It is worth remembering that public broadcasters are accountable to the public only. They are funded as independent media, not government's propaganda agents, and are as such obliged to provide the public with impartial news and information.
Independent media coverage has awakened people moral consciousness against the war. In the US, the Army's failure to recruit new soldiers has been attributed to honest reporting by few independent journalists. Recently, The New York Times reported on 04 March 2005 that; "Top Pentagon officials
acknowledge that the graphic images of casualties [dead and wounded soldiers] from Iraq and the obvious danger of serving there had caused many parents to advice their children to avoid joining the military now". It is in the interest of the US and its allies to prevent honest reporting from Iraq reaching their citizens at home. Without honest reporting of the atrocities committed against the Iraqi people by the Occupation forces, Iraq is doomed to continuing unreported atrocities.
In addition to free speech, the public has a right to independent and impartial source of information. Governments around the world are obliged to have special laws offering protection to prevent the extinction of independent media for the benefit of society as a whole . The media of giant corporations is the cause to permanent extinction of democracy and freethinking.
Ghali Hassan lives in Perth Western Australia. He can be reached at e-mail: G.Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au
Giuliana Sgrena's articles can be viewed here: