No. 9,
Fall/Winter 2002
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13 Months After the 9/11 Attacks - Terrorism, Patriotism and Media Coverage

Chair: Theo Koll, ZDF
Producer: Edith Champagne for CBC and The NewsXchange

Theo Koll quizzes CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips at NewsXchange Ljubljana.
CNN News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski participating via satellite.

The following is the transcript of a panel discussion that took place at The NewsXchange in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 10-11 November, 2002. Participating were Tony Burman, Editor in Chief, CBC Canada, Rita Cosby, host, FOX Wire with Rita Crosby, Fox News Channel, USA, Will Hutton, Author, "The World We're In" (via satellite), Patrick LeCocq,* Redacteur en chef, France 2, Dr. Shireen Mazari, Director, Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (via satellite), Jim Miklaszewski, Chief Pentagon Correspondent, NBC News, USA (via satellite), Mark Phillips, Correspondent, CBS News, London (via satellite), Arnim Stauth, Correspondent, ARD/WDR, Germany, and Dorota Warakomska, Editor-in-Chief, Panorama, TVP Poland.

*Since the translation of Patrick LeCocq's comments was not included on the recorded tape, we have eliminated references to him in the transcript.

Koll: Good afternoon and welcome. Eighteen minutes after the first plane, the second one hit the towers in precisely timed and calculated sequence to make sure that the atrocity was performed live on a world stage. Showing pictures of weapons of terrorism like never before, for the first time ever on that scale TV was used as a live transmitter, inescapably playing its role. As the world or more precisely some political parts of it are preparing for yet another war, we thought it was appropriate to look back more in analysis than anger to see what happened to media coverage since then. We want to do this in three parts. First we want to look at the 11th coverage and its consequences. Secondly we want to look at patriotism and reporting in terms of political correctness. And thirdly we want to focus on probably the most secretive war in modern history, in Afghanistan. You may join in the discussion at any time. First let's look back at the coverage of September 11. Edith Champagne the producer of this session has cut down a CBC documentary to a few minutes of reporters looking back at their coverage.

I'd first like the opportunity to go to New York because Rita Cosby has only a limited time with us. Rita, maybe you could help us with two things, first maybe you could help us with the factual information, why was the President's broadcast announced as live when it was a recording? Did you and the network already at the time have the underlying feeling that you were being used by the terrorists, we all were, by running the attacks?

Cosby, FOX: I will answer that in two parts. First off, when something like this happens there is incredible confusion and you can imagine just the enormity of tragedy that happened here on our soil. Even when there are smaller incidents, say a plane crash, often the information comes at a chaotic pace. And I remember that moment we were told the President was going to be live and then it was different. We also didn't know where the President was because they were trying to secrete him to different locations because at that point there were even reports that Air Force One was under attack, that the terrorists may even have had the codes to Air Force One, so there were a lot of security concerns. And I think that is typical in any case particularly in something of this enormity. In the second part in showing the pictures, I think it's a tough task. Do we show the pictures and therefore have the terrorists, whether it be possibly the 20th hijacker Muhammed Mussaoui cheering in his jail cell and other people saying, "Look, we did do our task." And on the other hand this is a terrible atrocity happening on US soil and we had to warn Americans that they had to be careful. We had to show them how severe this was and then as we were watching what was happening in New York, we saw the attacks on the Pentagon. And then we saw the other plane fortunately going down in a field and not hitting another target. So it's a fine line. Do we show it? Yes we have to, we have to let Americans know. We have to be informed. That is the bottom line of journalism.

Koll: I'll maybe ask some of the editors-in-chief on the panel, in terms of the contextual analysis, were you able on your networks to show a lot, explain a lot of context on the 11th?

Burman, CBC: No. I think like a lot of networks on that day and for maybe days following we were very restrained in that sense. It was evident to us shortly after the event that the pictures of this event were uniquely captured not only by one camera. So I think that we enacted policies that simply restricted their use. Our problem really for those of us that lived in a time zone where the event happened in the morning, people were joining our coverage through the day and we had to do something. I think that to the extent that TV has an ability to emote and create a mood, I think that our collective that day and it certainly wasn't unique to CBC was really to err on the side of caution.

Koll: Dorota, one of our colleagues at CNN has recently said in a panel that he thinks journalism is past tense since 9/11. Is that completely overstating it?

Warakomska, TVP: I wouldn't agree at all. In my opinion, the role of the journalist increased since 9/11 because we have to report and explain what is happening and what might happen. We have some kind of public duty towards our viewers especially us working in the public TV stations. We have to provide the background stories regarding Islam, Usama Bin Ladin and to explain everything and to warn people too.

Koll: He was referring to live TV taking over more and more, i.e., taking away the chance of a certain kind of journalism.

Warakomska, TVP: At the very beginning after 9/11 and on the day we in fact had just one correspondent reporting live from the top of the CBS building in New York and like most other people in the world there were no other pictures than the pictures we saw and we didn't know what was happening. So the live stand-up and interviews are much more important right now but the packages are more complex and in the packages we can explain more than in live stand-up. The role of journalists is not only to report but also to ask questions and to invite experts who can answer those questions.

Koll: Rita, what have been the consequences of 9/11 in media coverage in the US? We're going to talk about here, patriotism, PC coverage in the US.

Cosby, FOX: Well, I think there has been an increased patriotism; you can see that I'm wearing my flag pin. Fox News is known for wearing its flag pins.

Koll: You proudly do so?

Cosby, FOX: I do and you know why? We fought hard to do so at the network. I'm not embarrassed to say that I'm an American; I'm not embarrassed to say that I'm outraged at what happened on our soil. On the other hand, if there is something that is very questionable, i.e., the wedding incident, remember that terrible incident that happened at the wedding in Afghanistan, I think we at Fox News were tougher than any other news organization on the US military asking, What went wrong? I remember seeing a recent interview with Dan Rather of CBS evening news where he said that he felt that he was holding back and not being as critical on the Bush administration and the war on terror. I don't find that to be the case. I would not release information that would put American lives in danger. I found out about Operation Anaconda, had I reported that, I think there would have been many more American lives killed in that operation that unfortunately had some tragic consequences. On the other hand, I don't feel that my devotion and being an American outraged at what happened in my own country has changed my reporting in any way shape or form. If there is anything to be critical about, I don't hold back in any way in terms of asking the questions of US officials. I talked to Tommy Franks, the head of the whole operation in Afghanistan, and we spent a long time talking about the wedding party incident, what went wrong why were some civilians killed, what do we need to do to be better as a US military. So I think that we're able to separate our devotion for our country with our very strong devotion for the job.

Koll: Rita, we have with us Dr. Shireen Mazari from Islamabad, the director general of the ISS.

Mazari, ISS: I was very active in interviews after 9/11 with the foreign media and there were a few things that really struck me. A lot of the American media was behaving as though they were also warriors of the State of America, and the questions that they asked and the aggressive approach they used if they did not like the answers was clearly evident. I gave an interview to Fox TV where he asked my opinion on the way the war in Afghanistan was being conducted and I said that the massive killing of civilians was not justified and he said, "Yes but there is proof that Usama did the act," and I said, "Does it really matter? All you need is Muslim bloodshed." Now as a compere he lost his cool and started shouting hysterically. So there was a bias and a totally irrational view to the way that interviews at least in Pakistan were conducted, especially by the American media and the BBC. The BBC started this strange process of pre-interview interviews. If they liked what you had to say then they would put you on air.

Koll: I'd quickly like to have Rita respond to this and to tell us whether the ratings have had anything to do with this. Fox has been very popular for this kind of reporting.

Cosby, FOX: I can tell you that I don't know of the particular incident that she's speaking about. I can speak for myself and the colleagues that I'm aware of. We have done some very favorable reporting especially on Muslim issues and I think the good thing that's come from this is that there's a greater understanding. People didn't know where Tora Bora was and Jalalabad, we have tried to broaden the spectrum. And the other thing is at least we're not denying we're Americans. We're proud of our men and women that are out there on the line. But I do not think that that tapers into the sort of journalism that we do and the bottom line is that we are number one in America, we're beating CNN as of January, that's because people write in and say, You play it straight, you don't do political correctness. We're not afraid to be Americans but we're not afraid to be tough journalists.

Koll: Thank you very much for joining us, Rita. Maybe it's time to introduce the second video we prepared looking at the chapter of patriotism and coverage in terms of political correctness. It is a clip from a BBC Newsnight report.

[Video footage.]

Koll: A very famous change of opinion from a famous colleague, Dan Rather, and we're going to ask one of his colleagues, the London reporter for CBS in a minute. But first, Arnim, I'd like to ask you about the very strong view by Dan Rather. Has patriotism run amok?

Stauth, ARD/WDR: I wouldn't say it had run amok but there's a lot of truth in what he says. I felt in general in the media, especially in TV, we tended to be superficial. Our colleague from Fox mentioned outrage and I think that outrage and indignation influenced reporting and you don't have to look just at what was reported but also at what has not been reported and what has not been done. I think the analysis has been left to intellectuals and the print media and was hardly covered within our field of TV. Let's take the question of the reasons for terror, look at all the poor innocent victims. In the beginning it was very difficult to ask oneself what has the US done to be hated so much for people to do it. Analysis should have been deeper and more widespread and so in a way, "amok"-that's a provocation, a provocation that we might need to do our job properly and that means analysis and more than we have done so far.

Koll: I think our guest from Islamabad Dr Mazari has fairly strong views on the US coverage, especially this phrase "patriotism has run amok." Do you think that's a correct description from your point of view?

Mazari, ISS: Yes, I think it is and I think that frankly you can be proud of who you are. I'm proud of being a Pakistani but that does not mean that I as a journalist can be biased. And the worst thing is the demonization, at Fox TV especially and at CNN, of Islam. I want to make this point because I don't know whether I'll get a chance again or not. Why should Al-Qaeda be known as Islamic terrorists when the IRA is not known as Catholic terrorists, when the Ulster Defense League is not known as Protestant terrorists? Al-Qaeda's agenda is political; they are not proselytizing the word of Islam. Their agenda is political. It is to get the Americans out of Saudi Arabia. When you give it a religious overtone, you develop hatred. Interestingly, I didn't see Fox TV or any American channel cover the killing of innocent Muslim children. I can name too a 6-year-old in Houston, Texas who was killed because his name was Usama, people burst into his home and the police refused to register the fire. And in Florida a 10-year-old boy called Abdallah who shot by a 12-year-old white American who said "You are the enemy. You are a Muslim." So I think the disaster of American patriotism gone wild is tremendous for the rest of the world because unfortunately America has tremendous military power and if patriotism is equated with the use of military power it is a disaster for us.

Koll: I think we should have a US journalist commenting on this. Mark Phillips, CBS correspondent in London, did you find Dan Rather's comments surprising and do you know what made him change his views so dramatically?

Phillips, CBS: No, I would never find Dan Rather's views surprising on this or any other issue but I do think that we've seen a progression of reaction from the early days right after 9/11 to now more than a year beyond the event. I think there was an understandable, patriotic, knee-jerk reaction in the very early stages on the CBS network and virtually every other network. The news logos and the network logos became very patriotic and that kind of thing and there were many comments made by people including Dan Rather about the need for a proper journalistic response to the events that had happened. In the period during the Afghanistan action and even since then I think there has been a reassertion of the core journalistic values that we always applied in these cases. I would dispute your previous contributor's comments that there has been a consistent anti-Islamic bias in the coverage. I think there's a real danger here of over generalizing the reaction of one or two interviewers whom she may have come into contact with. I think the subject of an anti-Islamic backlash in the States was in fact covered in the papers as well. On the question of "militainment," which is the catch phrase we are using for this, I think that in any period when there are drum beats leading up to potential conflict there is romanticization of the military. Some people who perhaps should know better understand as well that putting a face to Pentagon activities will bring in audiences and that's just part of the cut and thrust of commercial TV.

Koll: These much-maligned unilateralisms that the US seems to be playing at the moment on the world stage, is that not reflected one to one in the media?

Phillips, CBS: I don't buy it. For one thing I don't think that the networks are in any way an expression of US foreign policy. I think the coverage is what it has always been. It's professionally done. There are elements in the networks that might be more prone to promote a White House or Pentagon line and there are elements that aren't and this bi-play has always existed, it's what makes the whole journalistic process healthy. I don't think certainly as someone who's been involved in international coverage for more than 20 years…it's hardly in our interests over here to promote American unilateralism. We're in the business of explaining the world to America and I think there's more of a call for that now than there was previously.

Koll: Thank you very much. Tony, let's look at the process journalism is going through. Is there possibly a kind of inherent self-censorship we all carry within us and the closer the conflict is to ourselves the more prone we are to this distorting our traditional journalistic criteria.

Burman, CBC: I think the answer is, Yes, to a point. I should point out actually a statement of conflict here, that your previous speaker is a friend, a former colleague, and fellow Canadian. I think there is a tendency in any kind of domestic conflict for the media to go overboard. There was in Canada 30 years ago during a terrorist crisis, when I lived in Britain in the 1980s you couldn't hear the actual voice of Gerry Adams, the head of Sinn Fein. Some people said the voice of the actor portraying Gerry Adams was more persuasive than the man himself. My worry is that people like Mark Phillips who live abroad trying to convince Americans that the world matters…my worry sometimes is that they're on the losing edge of the game and in reality even if his analysis is correct in the sense that there was a certain balancing that occurred this year, the road to Baghdad is so clear to us all, if you look at the US domestic media which is not CNN International, which is not the reporting capable correspondents like Mark Phillips and others provide. Fox News actually-and I think she revealed herself in spades-is far more reflective of American commercial media, certainly the all-news networks, and I think it's to the peril of the debate and you can't help, as the Canadian looking into the US when not only their interests but our collective interests are at stake in the decisions made over the next several months, you can't help but think that it's very sad that the debate has been restricted so much.

Koll: Thank you. Thank you to Dr Shireen Mazari and now we'd like to welcome from London Will Hutton. Will we've just heard a no to the question to the panel - is there a unilateralism reflected in the US media. Is that something you would agree with?

Hutton: Well I don't think it works quite like that. I'd rather agree with Mark Phillips who was speaking. It's not so much that the US media is unilateralist. It just in the way that it reports, in the priorities that it establishes, it creates a culture within the US that makes unilateralism very easy. Israel is painted as broadly always on the right side and being wronged and in fairness it's more complex than that. Iraq is very simply seen as having a relationship with Al-Qaeda, which the French government at the very least contests. It's all more complicated. And this patriotic fervor that has descended, it's accentuated a one-sided view of the world and although that one- sided view of the world is in a sense quite honest and I think the journalism in it is quite honest if you understand me, it creates a culture in the US for the Republicans in particular to say the things they do and the neo-conservatives around Bush to do the things they do. So I'm not sure the chain of causation runs quite the way your question suggests.

Koll: Well, we heard this morning from our keynote speaker that there is a case for moderate patriotism. Would you from a British perspective agree that one has to have a certain understanding for moderate patriotism?

Hutton: Well, it was Samuel Johnson who said that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. Moderate patriotism…obviously we're all moderate patriots in that sense but we haven't had moderate patriotism have we? The difficulty is to understand the hurt. It was an extraordinary act and the speaker from Islamabad I think didn't get to grips with how it feels to be on the receiving end of terrorism of that type. I mean over 3000 dead in those buildings and you might like to say it was political but those were innocents. So I'm just re-stating things that everybody knows but the sense of hurt in the US, a democracy, a respecter of the rule of law and for all the criticism that is leveled against it, it was intense and acute. And it wasn't so much patriotism but a real sense of affront. A real sense of outrage coupled with a sense of fear that has been fuelling some of the American reaction to this. It's actually made it difficult for journalism not to go with the flow with that because that's what readers actually want to read, they want that reflected.

Koll: I think we still have Mark Phillips in London. How far was the self-censorship in the US in terms of not being able to have satirical comment in programs on the developments.

Phillips, CBS: I'm not in the lucky position of Tony Burman where he gets the Canadian perspective looking in through the American rear side window. Based here in London I've read in the papers that comments made on late night TV shows have resulted in the cancellation of shows and that the second casualty of 9/11 was a sense of humor or irony and I'm prepared to accept that that was in fact the case. So your question dealing with self-censorship in so far as we in the field covering international events-we are self-censoring if we are not producing stories about the innocent victims of misplaced US bombing. I'm not here as an apologist for network news, let alone for CBS, but I can honestly say that I haven't witnessed that. When we're in a position to report those sorts of things then we do. When we're in a position to, we put people on the air who cast doubts about American policy both in its conduct in the war against terrorism or in the build-up to this war with Iraq. We've put innumerable people on TV expressing their doubts about both of those things. It fits into the context that Will Hutton was referring to of the general journalistic drumbeat now existent in the States where members of the Bush administration will take of it what they want and there's a few that oppose this pending war and they will take what they want. But I don't think it's our business to self-censor. Certainly it's Journalism 101, it's our business, to present the arguments as we find them and let other people decide for themselves.

Koll: Thank you mark very much. Before we go to our next guest, I'd like to take this opportunity to show our third film clip to open up the discussion on the coverage of the war in Afghanistan. It is a piece from a Channel 4 documentary called the House of War.

[Video footage.]

Koll: Arnim, what happened when you handed over to him the telephone?

Stauth, ARD/WDR: We got the account for the satellite phone a month later so I could detect from the numbers dialed that he actually called the US Embassy in Tashkent in Uzbekistan. We could follow the conversation. There was no place to hide for him and we agreed that if he ordered ground troops to join the fight and choppers, to evacuate people from the fighting. That was my goal: to save our lives and the lives of my crew and there was a Reuters crew and Red Cross staff and he advised people who were on the other side of the line. Let's get one thing clear; you can't bomb the place because you can't tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. And what happened in the end was the fighter jets came and we heard the bombs coming in and hitting and they did it. That time they were accurate the next day a 1000-kilo bomb went wrong and killed a couple of Northern Alliance soldiers and wounded a couple of Americans.

Koll: After that there was quite a discussion because it was also shown on German TV about whether you should have co-operated with the CIA man and questions of neutrality. Editors-in-chief on the panel, should he have not?

Burman, CBC: Personally on the basis of what I understand, I think he made the right decision. I also think that ultimately we're there to serve the viewer and I think that's the determining factor and I think in that sense that kind of arrangement done with the obvious care and in the conditions that he outlined seemed appropriate.

Koll: I would like to bring in Jim Miklaszewski, chief Pentagon correspondent for CNN. You were first on the scene on 11 September and have led the coverage since then on the war. Thanks for joining us. The Journalism Review said that the Pentagon has never been as tight as in this war. Is this your experience?

Miklaszewski, CNN: Not actually. I think for those reporters that don't cover the Pentagon on a routine basis it is difficult. Those who parachute into a story and expect the Pentagon to lay open all the details and facts that are available to them, those reporters find it difficult but for the beat reporters, those who cover the Pentagon on a regular basis, the information is very easily available in this war as in any other conflict. The only difference in this case where I would agree with you is that so much of the conflict is in Afghanistan and so much of the war on terrorism is being conducted covertly through the CIA, paramilitaries, or special forces that it has become more difficult to get that information.

Koll: How much were you dependent exclusively on the Pentagon?

Miklaszewski, CNN: Not at all, we do work the beat here at the Pentagon. We have a variety of sources throughout Washington, throughout the military commands and then overseas, so nobody in the Pentagon relies on just a handful of sources here, but we do pick up the telephone and talk to others worldwide.

Koll: Dorota, what was your experience? Was this the tightest controlled war in modern history?

Miklaszewski, CNN: Well, I think the Pentagon and the US military have been trying their best to control the flow of information but all you have to do is watch the briefings by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to hear the frustration out of Rumsfeld in the kind of information that has been made available to reporters, not only in the ongoing war on terrorism but in the preparations for the war against Iraq. So I think all administrations, all the Pentagon and US military administrations, do in fact try to control the information as best they can, but it's not a perfect world for them by any means and reporters who dig manage to come up with information that the Pentagon would prefer not to be released.

Koll: Jim, thanks very much for the moment. Dorota the same question to you.

Warakomska, TVP: From the Polish perspective gathering the information is not easy of course, especially the military information. There is always more speculation than real information but I suppose after 9/11, authorities and military learned that the media might help with proper information, so I have noticed that some of the people in the Polish administration have realized that they can rely on the correspondents and that there is some special, unofficial information that we have to know which is more than we can report about but we have to get that information. This is the very sensitive issue of self-censorship that we are discussing. Again, because we know more than we can say and we can't say too much because of national security. There is a difference between self-censorship and acting responsibility.

Koll: Arnim, the video suggests that you were extremely close to say the least but in overall terms was it difficult to get where the news was developing?

Stauth, ARD/WDR: The attitude of the US and of a couple of the British forces that we were around was quite contradictory as the next day we filmed them while they were directing their bombers and gave all co-ordinates and there was one American guy who very politely said "I'd rather not be photographed as a close-up, what with my family at home; they could be in danger", so it was a very close relationship but only afterwards we learned that of course they were trying to convince us that all their smart weapons work well. And what happened then was what I'd already mentioned about the smart 1000 kg bomb that went completely wrong and we have it on another tape. In the background you hear the Afghans screaming at the Americans "that was wrong, you hit the place where we are, that was absolutely wrong!" And then the secret service guy who was watching says, "Cut that please. Turn off now!" but it was on tape already and then the attitude towards journalists completely changed. The next day we had hands covering the lenses and we have it on tape as well a British constantly swearing at journalists "I'm going to fucking shoot you! I'm going to fucking shoot you!" and it went on the next day. They said, "Turn the cameras off!" loaded their guns, and pointed them at us and at that point I was so furious I said "Well you've come here to bring democracy and the first thing you do is to hinder the free press to do their job. And you're fucking guests here and you're on foreign ground as we are so let us do our job!" And this officer just stood there and didn't know what to answer and there were 20 cameras around so he couldn't shoot me and the other journalists; he just turned away. So the relationship which had been very close in the beginning turned to hatred and ended up with complete ignorance. We filmed them entering the fortress to go to war, and fight, and they didn't notice.

Koll: I'm going to open up to the floor.

Prem Prakash, Asia News International, New Delhi: I'm going to slightly take it away from you in another sense. Yes, war on terrorism, but it's background. I'm one of the few journalists who have traveled far and wide in Afghanistan right from its happy days right up until what is happening today. During this war on terror nobody has bothered to go to the heart of the crisis. The crisis started in the Cold War itself when in 1978 the regime of Daud was overthrown and Daud was the same person who overthrew King Zahir Shah, who the Americans have now brought back. The regime that took over from Daud was not to the liking of the US and it is at that point that Islam was used to fight a political battle, it is at that point that the CIA introduced Islam and the Mujahedin to fight the Soviet Union but it was a socialist government. Even after the Soviet troops withdrew for three years the Najibullah government could not be overthrown by these so-called Islamic fighters that had been introduced by the US. The net result, we see the emergence of the Taliban and I as a journalist bear witness to the fact that I was in Kabul in 1992. In 1995 I interviewed Robin Russell in Washington on tape and I came away with the impression that they were behind the Taliban. Once you introduce an element like that what do you expect? And what you are now witnessing this war on terror is slowly being turned into a war against Islam.

Koll: It's maybe something we should pass on to our guest in Washington. Jim, how critically would you report on former US involvement in Afghanistan or even with Saddam Hussein looking at the future?

Miklaszewski, CNN: Well, I think it was reported extensively that after the Cold war, actually after the Soviets had been forced out of Afghanistan with the help, of course, of the US flying in weapons, CIA involvement, and the like, that the US pretty much walked away from Afghanistan. And I think it was reported extensively, here in the US at least, that the US bore some responsibility for the anarchy that developed and the rise of the Taliban. I'm not here as a spokesperson or an apologist for the US government but even people within the US government acknowledged that the US had made a grave error by once getting involved in Afghanistan by then walking away when they thought the job had been done.

Koll: There is a discussion in the newspapers here amongst the media on how you are going to call the Iraqi president. Has that been decided? Is he just Saddam or Saddam Hussein or the Iraqi president?

Miklaszewski, CNN: In any news reporting of course you have the first reference and usually we refer to him first as Saddam Hussein then we refer to him as the Iraqi president or simply Saddam. There was a lot of conjecture back during Desert Storm when George Bush Snr. would often refer to president Saddam Hussein as Saddam in some kind of a derogatory fashion. But I think you see a pretty evenhanded approach from the US media in referring directly to Saddam Hussein.

Koll: Jim thank you very much for the moment. Tony is that part of what we have to look at, the wording of things, the terminology? We were always told about "the war against terrorism" even when it turned into a war against Afghanistan.

Burman, CBC: Yes, but I think we also need to look at the history. I really do agree with the gentleman from New Delhi in that it's impossible for anyone to understand where we are now and where we are going without understanding even the more recent events that led up to them. And I do think there is an interest in many parts of North America certainly throughout Europe about the modern history that led to the conditions we're dealing with now and I think again, with mild dissent to Jim who is an extremely capable reporter, I think the US mainstream media have dropped modern history off the table. The American association with Bin Ladin is no longer dealt with, the American association with Saddam Hussein is no longer dealt with, so I think a lot of Americans are innocently ignorant as to how we got here. And it then allows the story to be broken down in terms of heroes and villains and demons and that in terms of 21st Century politics is such a naive elementary breakdown that it is almost frightening. And I think it's well beyond the use of terms. We're dealing with the pre-war history of the last 20 years that helps explain why things are happening now.

Koll: Jim, you have been seen dangerously nodding. Do you agree with that?

Miklaszewski CNN: I would agree with that wholeheartedly. Most of the US media and for whatever reason whether it be financial considerations, whether it be the media playing directly to who they think are their audience. I would agree with that, that there is not enough of time spent in any US media in terms of historical perspective. Now if NBC for example should do a two-and-a-half or three-minute piece in February or March on the history leading up to this conflict, does the networker feel obliged three, four, five, six months later to do it again? So I think there are other considerations but I do agree that in the most part the American people, and I guess you could blame the US media for that to a certain extent, are pretty ignorant of the history involved in some of the conflicts the US now finds itself in.

Koll: But, Dorota, don't we have to look at ourselves in a more self-critical way. Isn't there always a tendency underlying self-censorship, patriotism. Chris Cramer mentioned this morning the Falklands when there was very open patriotism in Britain [see in this issue: Chris Cramer, CEO of CNNI]. In Germany you would probably report about German reunification, not as brutal in some sense as it might be occasionally. I don't know what it's like in Canada or if you have examples of when there becomes a very subtle national self-interest in reporting.

Warakomska, TVP: Well, I'd like to make a point about self-censorship but in a different way because censorship is a very important subject in Poland. You have to remember that for so many years journalists in Poland and other Soviet countries were denied the right to speak and write freely. Now, especially after 9/11, we observe something like this specific way of interpreting freedom of speech and democracy meaning, We can say anything we want and nobody will stop us, which results in some strange reports especially on the smaller radio stations and some TV stations. Journalists just try and cover everything and it's very sensational which is partly good of course but on the other hand if you don't explain the reasons you just make the sensation that something is going on but you just make the public scared.

Koll: Yes, I'd like to ask Jim in Washington for the last time. How does this sound to you, this European criticism? Are we sitting on a high horse here?

Miklaszewski, CNN: No, I don't think so. I think this is a very healthy debate that is going on worldwide not only about US military operations but also how the media covers it. We of all people should be open to this kind of criticism and introspection at what it is and how it is we report, so I myself don't feel the least bit offended by criticism aimed at the US media, goodness knows we deserve a lot of it.

Koll: Thank you very much. A very last point. Can you give us before you go a rough guess-are we going to brace ourselves for another war pretty soon?

Miklaszewski, CNN: Unless something very extraordinary should happen, should Saddam Hussein be forced out of power in Iraq, I believe that you could see US military action against Iraq sometime after the first of the year but that's only my guess.

Koll: Tony, before we wrap up I'd just like to hear the future of war reporting as you see it. Will we have less eyewitnesses, less on the spot, and have to concentrate on analysis from our home desk?

Burman, CBC: No. I think that technology now allows for a whole new generation of journalists, dare I say young journalists, to get access to stories that older journalists were never able to get to and VJ's will become incredibly prevalent and we're going to find ourselves with an incredible number of cameras in parts of the world that up till now never had them. So I think the proliferation of international reporting will increase. And secondly I think the complexity of stories like the current one is an argument for more context, analysis, and history and the US is slightly offside on that but I think that Americans have an appetite for it and Europeans and Canadians certainly do. I guess my answer to your question is, Yes to both. Yes, there will be more field journalism coming despite the people who argue to the contrary and there'll be plenty of outlets for that.

Koll: I'd just like to ask everybody for a short analysis on where you think we're going to go in terms of reporting.

Arnim. Stauth, ARD/WDR: I don't think it's going to change for the better. I can only repeat what I said our task is and that's to give the full picture foreground and background and if we don't give the background then we're only pretending to give information. If we ignore the US interest in oil in the Middle East, we're not giving the full picture. If we announce that the former Mujahedin Hekmatyar joined the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, it's not the full picture, if we don't mention that he was the one who got all the modern weapons from the US when they were fighting the Soviets. A conference like this might help us but I won't hold my breath.

Warakomska, TVP: Covering war might be more and more difficult like with Iraq. If the US hits Iraq, I will learn about it afterwards. It will be quick and not like the previous time with CNN cameras waiting for the soldiers there. I suppose for us it is much more difficult.

Koll: Thank you everybody. TBS

 

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