Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dude, Where's My VOA

Perhaps devoid of any sense of irony, Ralph Peters, back in early March, chided journalists for sitting comfortably in their safe "enclaves," in the Green Zone, failing to get out and about to get the real stories in Baghdad without their "hired guns." Of course, Peters was basing these criticisms on the observations he made on his own illuminating tour of Baghdad - while tucked away in a US military convoy. I guess they weren't "hired guns" in the strictest sense.

But there's no way we can let irresponsible journalists off the hook - or their parent organizations. Many journalists are, indeed, brave and conscientious; yet some in Baghdad - working for "prestigious" publications - aren't out on the city streets the way they pretend to be.

They're safe in their enclaves, protected by hired guns, complaining that it's too dangerous out on the streets. They're only in Baghdad for the byline, and they might as well let their Iraqi employees phone it in to the States. Whenever you see a column filed from Baghdad by a semi-celeb journalist with a "contribution" by a local Iraqi, it means this: The Iraqi went out and got the story, while the journalist stayed in his or her room.
According to Peters, the persistent stories of violence and civil war in Iraq that were percolating around US-based newsrooms were just so much exaggeration and Bush-bashing. After all, on his brief tour through a narrow sliver of a small portion of Iraq, he didn't see any violence.

All day - and it was a long day - we drove through Shia and Sunni neighborhoods. Everywhere, the reception was warm. No violence. None.

And no hostility toward our troops. Iraqis went out of their way to tell us we were welcome.

Instead of a civil war, something very different happened because of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. The fanatic attempt to stir up Sunni-vs.-Shia strife, and the subsequent spate of violent attacks, caused popular support for the U.S. presence to spike upward.
Interestingly, some federal government agencies are getting into the Bush-bashing business by recklessly responding to "alleged" violence committed against some of its employees. From Howard Kurtz (via Rox Pop) [emph. mine]:

The Voice of America's bureau in Baghdad has been closed for the past six months, ever since the government-funded agency withdrew its only reporter in Iraq after she was fired upon in an ambush and her security guard was later killed.

All Western news organizations have struggled with the dangerous conditions in Iraq, which have led to such high-profile incidents as the kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll and the wounding of ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff. But for a federally funded information service to pull out of Baghdad for such a prolonged period raises questions about the Bush administration's insistence that conditions there are gradually improving.

VOA reporter Alisha Ryu said yesterday that she told her bosses in December that "it would really be impossible for me to do any kind of work" in Iraq. "I couldn't live with the idea that someone else could have died who was working with me....For all journalists, it's really become impossible to move around."

Asked why VOA has not sent another reporter to Iraq, Ryu said, "They didn't have any volunteers to replace me."
Hey Ralph, did you hear that? They're having a tough time finding a replacement for Ryu. Why don't you volunteer and show all these craven VOA types how safe Baghdad really is. Then again, considering this, you might want to think twice.

Since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 69 journalists have been killed while on duty, along with 26 media support workers.

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