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[] ISN Security Watch on Journalists and War,

-Journalists unhappy with US war briefings  
-War reporters under fire from home  

Journalists unhappy with US war briefings
Many journalists at the main US headquarters for the Iraq war 
say they get plenty of spin but little news. In Doha, held on 
a slick US$200'000 set designed by a Hollywood consultant, 
each briefing so far has begun with a bullish statement about 
the state of the war and videos depicting precision bombing by 
the US-led forces. Questions on reports from the battlefield 
by senior US officers of concerns about stretched supply 
lines, troop numbers and Iraqi resistance have either gone 
unanswered or been contradicted in Doha by more junior 
officers, the Washington Post article said. A reporter for New 
York magazine, frustrated at the lack of light being shed on 
the war, asked this question last week to applause from 
colleagues: "Why should we stay? What's the value to us for 
what we learn at this million-dollar press center?" US 
broadcasters CNN, NBC and CBS all said they sent relatively 
small teams to As Sayliya Camp, the US Central Command forward 
headquarters on the bleak outskirts of Doha's capital, Qatar, 
and had no plans to scale back. Fox was not available for 
comment and ABC said it did not discuss staff levels. One 
network executive, however, said privately that it had 
withdrawn around a dozen people. During the 1991 Gulf War, the 
executive said, most of the news on how the conflict with Iraq 
was going for US-led forces came from the main briefing center 
and US commander General Norman Schwarzkopf. "Now with all the 
embedded journalists (attached to US and British units) the 
briefings are much more reactive to the main news of the 
day," the executive said. Around 600 journalists, known by the 
Pentagon as "embeds", are attached to US and British military 
units. 'Embeds' are subject to military regulation and 
censorship, but often report on frontline developments before 
Central Command briefings. In contrast to the Yugoslav war, 
where political and military briefings were separated, 
journalists complain that Centcom officials have been more 
determined to paint Iraqi forces in the worst possible light, 
rather than explain the progress of the military campaign. 
Many reporters attribute this focus to the man in charge of 
the media center, Jim Wilkinson. He is a former spokesman for 
the US National Republican Congressional Committee and a 
political appointee brought in by the Bush administration. 
War reporters under fire from home
Two of US television's most controversial war correspondents 
found themselves in trouble on Monday over their reporting in 
Iraq, as NBC fired Peter Arnett and the Pentagon pressed Fox 
News Channel to pull out Geraldo Rivera. Arnett, a Pulitzer 
Prize winner during the Vietnam War who gained fame in 1991 as 
CNN's man in Baghdad, found himself out of work after he 
appeared on Iraqi TV and said the US war plan against Saddam 
Hussein had failed. The interview sparked outrage from his 
employers. "It was wrong for [Arnett] to discuss his personal 
observations and opinions in that interview," NBC News 
President Neal Shapiro said in a statement announcing Arnett's 
dismissal. National Geographic called it "a serious error in 
judgment and wrong". MSNBC president Erik Sorenson went so far 
as to say Arnett's interview was "arguably unpatriotic". But 
the veteran newsman did not remain jobless for long. Britain's 
Daily Mirror said it had hired him and he told the tabloid, "I 
report the truth of what is happening in Baghdad and will not 
apologize for it." Appearing on NBC's Today show, Arnett 
insisted that what he told Iraqi television was common 
knowledge but conceded he had created a firestorm in the US 
and apologized for doing so. Arnett's dismissal came four 
years after the native New Zealander was let go by CNN in the 
fallout over its "Operation Tailwind" documentary, since 
disavowed by the network, alleging that US commandos had used 
Sarin nerve gas against American defectors in the Vietnam War. 
Operating uncensored during the current war, it was Arnett who 
put NBC ahead by being first with the news that the US-led 
aerial bombardment of Baghdad had begun. Geraldo Rivera, known 
for his provocative on-screen style, ran afoul of the Pentagon 
after a broadcast report from the field in which he sketched a 
map in the sand for viewers to outline US troop positions. The 
Defense Department said Fox News had agreed to remove Rivera 
from the area of operations after the US military field 
commander complained that Rivera had compromised operational 
security. Rivera remains in Iraq, however, and in a live 
report on Monday said that all was well between him and the 
military. Rivera drew controversy in Afghanistan in late 2001 
for carrying a gun while on assignment. (Reuters)

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