13 Months After
the 9/11 Attacks - Terrorism, Patriotism and Media Coverage
Chair: Theo Koll, ZDF
Producer: Edith Champagne for CBC and The NewsXchange
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
was referring to live TV taking over more and more, i.e., taking away the chance
of a certain kind of journalism.
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
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.
proudly do so?
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.
we have with us Dr. Shireen Mazari from Islamabad, the director general of the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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
what happened when you handed over to him the telephone?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
much were you dependent exclusively on the Pentagon?
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.
what was your experience? Was this the tightest controlled war in modern history?
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.
thanks very much for the moment. Dorota the same question to you.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
you have been seen dangerously nodding. Do you agree with that?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
you everybody. TBS