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[infowar.de] WPO 23.03.03: War News Filtered Through Nations' Politics
War News Filtered Through Nations' Politics
Reporting Is Extensive, but Nature of Coverage Largely Depends on Stance of
By Glenn Frankel and Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, March 23, 2003; Page A32
LONDON, March 22 -- British journalists are blanketing television, radio
and newspapers back home with extensive, round-the-clock coverage of the
war, while the Arab news media are focusing almost exclusively on the view
from inside Iraq and on antiwar demonstrations around the world. And
Chinese viewers are getting perhaps their least-censored access ever to war
As the American- and British-led invasion of Iraq unfolds, what people see
and read around the world still largely depends on where they live and on
the stance their governments have taken. Many editorials have been
relentlessly critical of the United States. But there is better access to
and more information about this war than during any recent conflict.
The BBC has mounted one of its most ambitious broadcast operations, with
some 200 journalists and technicians deployed in Iraq and 12 nearby
countries, including three correspondents and crew members in Baghdad. It
is operating seven satellite dishes and broadcasting coverage 24 hours a
day on television, radio and the Internet. The network's 10 p.m. news
program Thursday drew 7.6 million viewers, its largest news audience since
the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a spokeswoman.
Britain's Sky News and ITN have also dispatched news crews to the region.
Three members of an ITN crew were reported missing outside the southern
Iraqi city of Basra after fighting broke out there.
British newspapers have also produced blanket coverage. The tabloids
generally have fallen in behind the government and its armed forces. The
Sun, in a 3 a.m. "war edition" this morning, called Friday night's
bombardment of Baghdad "hypnotic and horrifying," but laid the blame for
any civilian casualties "squarely on the shoulders of the wicked dictator,"
One exception has been the antiwar Daily Mirror, which headlined Friday
night's attack "Shocking and Awful." The Mirror has tried to straddle the
line, supporting British forces while attacking the government. "Troops are
heroes, the war's insane," read one headline.
France, which opposes the war, has no troops in the field. But the story of
the war has taken up more than half the space allotted to news coverage in
papers, and the bulk of time on television as well. Most of the newspaper
coverage has been straight reporting -- although there are signs of an
antiwar or anti-American perspective. Friday's edition of the
left-of-center Le Monde carried the large lead headline, "The American war
The Arab news media generally succumbed today to feelings of frustration
and overall gloom as U.S.-led troops surged further into Iraq.
Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite network that has attracted a huge
following in the Arab world, broadcast dramatic images tonight of
casualties it said were caused by the attack on Basra. It offered
interviews with the first Iraqi casualties at a Baghdad hospital.
Al-Jazeera also reported widely on the violent demonstration Friday outside
the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, in which two people were killed. And it
broadcast a special report detailing ties between senior members of the
Bush administration and U.S. oil companies.
Most Arab news outlets continued to blame the United States for the
fighting and called for a quick end to the bombing. "It is not enough for
them to see some Arab territories bleeding, our airspace and waters turned
into passages of death," wrote al-Thawrah, one of Syria's main papers.
"They want to add our bodies to these, to complete their portrait, which
they have been preparing for decades."
There were fears that the invasion could set off ethnic turmoil between
Arabs and Kurds, and worries that U.S. and British forces would be
emboldened to conquer other Arab nations. Several editorials called the war
in Iraq "American imperialism."
"Even if the Iraqis hate Saddam they cannot love those who light fires in
their airspace and destroy their positions," wrote the paper al-Riyadh in
A minority blamed Hussein for causing the war. "In very simple words,
Saddam Hussein is solely responsible for everything that's happening in
Iraq and he must weather the misery of his people," Ossama Agag wrote in an
op-ed column in Akhbar al-Yawm, an Egyptian paper.
In predominately Muslim Indonesia, television journalists have been
reporting energetically on casualties, chronologies of attacks and official
statements from both sides. An editorial in the Jakarta Post, an
English-language daily, laid blame on both President Bush and Hussein.
In Mexico, where polls show the overwhelming majority against the war,
newspapers are steadily criticizing U.S. "aggression." The enormous banner
headline in Reforma newspaper was: "The U.S. Strikes Without Mercy."
Friday's papers devoted a great deal of coverage to antiwar demonstrators
around the world. Bush was called "the grave digger of world peace." One
editorial cartoon depicted Bush sitting on top of a world in the shape of a
bomb, with a match in his hand.
News of the war was mixed with special apprehension in Australia, which had
sent 2,000 military personnel to the Iraqi theater. News executives in
Australia chafed at the comparative secrecy surrounding the Australian
troops, which have not followed the U.S. lead in "embedding" large numbers
Some private Japanese networks returned to their fare of soap operas and
game shows Friday. But the public NHK broadcast network kept up nearly
continuous coverage of the war, with straightforward commentary from
military analysts armed with the pointers and maps that are a staple of
China's Foreign Ministry ordered all Chinese journalists to leave Baghdad a
day before the war began. Nonetheless, the state-run Central Television ran
live footage from CNN of the first cracks of antiaircraft fire from
Baghdad. Two CCTV channels have cut into regular programming to air
speeches by Bush and Hussein, and to report other key developments.
The Chinese media have generally been free from the anti-American screeds
that characterized China's reporting of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the
U.S.-led NATO attacks on Yugoslavia.
Still, hopes among Chinese journalists that China's media outlets would
dispatch up to 100 war correspondents to the region have gone up in smoke.
One weekly publication, 21st Century World Herald, had planned a special
daily edition for each day the war lasted. But the paper ran afoul of
Beijing's censors for printing an interview calling for political reform
earlier this month. Chinese authorities closed the paper on March 13, the
day the paper's war correspondent, Michael An, arrived in Baghdad. An is
now on his way back to Beijing.
Wax reported from Cairo. Correspondents Mary Jordan in Mexico City, Robert
J. McCartney in Paris, Ellen Nakashima in Jakarta, John Pomfret in Beijing
and Doug Struck in Tokyo contributed to this report.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
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