Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Iraq: Too Dangerous to Cover

The Surge may be making Iraq safer, but not for those reporting it. Eight out of ten journalists say the war is now harder to cover than it was when they started working there.

From an October survey of 111 journalists in 29 news organizations, the Project for Excellence in Journalism concludes: "They believe they have done a better job of covering the American military and the insurgency than they have the lives of ordinary Iraqis. And they do not believe the coverage of Iraq over time has been too negative. If anything, many believe the situation over the course of the war has been worse than the American public has perceived."

Outside of the heavily-fortified Green Zone, local staff do the face-to-face reporting, and they can't carry any equipment, not even notebooks, that might identify them as working for American media out of fear of being killed. Some don't even tell their families.

According to one print journalist, "The dangers can’t be overstated. It’s been an ambush--two staff killed, one wounded--various firefights, and our ‘home’ has been rocked and mortared (by accident, I’m pretty sure).”

A broadcast editor reported: "It's dangerous and frustrating. You want to go out and cover stories, but you can't because of the threat of kidnapping or worse. It's hard to hear commentators back home say, 'The media isn't covering the full story.' Well, there's a reason for that, and it's not bias. When journalists cannot cover a playground being rebuilt because it's too dangerous to travel around the city, then that playground is not the primary story."

Politicians, media critics and journalism students, take note.

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