"Lo primero es cumplir con mi trabajo como periodista, no descansar jamás hasta que doy con la información, con la noticia propia, ésa que uno tiene que buscar a pesar de cualquier peligro". Julio Fuentes. 13 de marzo de 2000.
Hi everyone, I’ve been away for awhile, professional, personal things that needed to be addressed.
Sometimes the Universe has an acute sense of timing… and a cruel sense of humor. Since the beginning of the
Back in the late 90s and early 2000 while I was in
Contrary to the United States where some journalists – particularly TV ones – are treated as celebrities, in Spain being a journalist is a dangerous profession, mostly due to the threat of the terrorist organization ETA. In order to physically enter a newspaper, news agency, TV or radio station, people are screened through metal detectors; back packages, briefcases, purses and shoes are examined through X-Ray machines, just as in an airport. No bored security guards eating and reading a newspaper at the entrances. Spaniards are dead serious about their new constitution (around 27 years old) and their freedom of speech, they don’t yield their information or bend their knees due to government or terrorist’s threats. Journalists are considered messengers. Messengers of truth and the force that fiscalizes public entities and government.
After 9/11, the initial military incursion was Afganistan. Spanish newspaper El Mundo sent their veteran war correspondent to the area Julio (Fuentes) to cover the conflict. Julio among with Arturo Pérez Reverte one of the most experimented War Correspondents in
Two years later, his widow El Mundo war correspondent Mónica García Prieto, was assigned to cover the battle of
From the reporters’ notes:
As the fall of
approached, some 300 international journalists were based in the Palestine Hotel, on the eastern bank of the Baghdad . They had relocated from the Al-Rashid when CNN left and moved to the Tigris River . Most reporters assumed that the presence of CNN would provide a sort of cover, that the Palestine military wouldn’t bomb CNN. José Couso and reporter Jon Sistiaga, reporting the war for Spanish TV channel Tele 5, followed suit. US
Early in the morning of April 8, the day before the fall of
, a tank with the Third Infantry Division’s Fourth Brigade, 64th Armor Regiment standing on the Al-Jumuriya bridge over the Baghdad aims its turret and knocks out a camera on the roof of the offices of Abu-Dhabi Television. From room 1403 in the Tigris River across the river, José Couso’s camera captures the tank carefully aiming at the “target,” even though Abu-Dhabi TV had already given the coordinates of its offices to the Pentagon before the war. Palestine
Some time later, Al-Jazeera comes under attack. Though in a more conflictive area, they had also alerted the Pentagon to the exact GPS position of their
bureau. To no avail: a missile takes the life of Tarek Ayyoub, a Jordanian reporter with the network. Al-Jazeera is once again a target for US forces, as its bureau in Kabul had been hit in November 2001. Baghdad
Later that morning, a lull in the fighting reigns in the district of Baghdad immediately surrounding the Palestine Hotel, where, as the Pentagon knows the international media is based. Throughout the early morning, US tanks and planes have been cleaning up the last scattered remnants of Iraqi forces still putting up some find of fight, almost entirely on the western bank of the Tigris river, where the presidential palaces and ministries are found. A calm seems to take hold, as no shooting occurs for a good while. The Spanish reporter, Carlos Hernández of Antena 3, says that they seemed to have run out of targets. Some reporters go inside and begin to file reports, and many cameras stop shooting. Sistiaga: “I even left the balcony because I saw that a whole half-hour had gone by with a single shot, and it seemed that the battle was at a halt.” But not José Couso, who continues to aim his camera at the tanks on the Al-Jumuriya bridge.
Then, Couso sees and records an Abrams M1A1 tank as it swings its turret round and points toward the Palestine; it pauses, then fires a single round at the hotel, some three quarters of a mile away, striking the 15th floor. This is the third attack on the media of the day, and it’s not yet quite . Couso himself and the Ukrainian reporter for Reuters, Tara Protsyuk, are struck by debris and shrapnel. Protsyuk dies almost immediately from his wounds. Severely wounded in the leg, Couso is rushed to the hospital by his partner Jon Sistiaga and Mexican cameraman Jorge Pliego, in scenes shown on Spanish TV. Couso holds on for a couple of hours, but succumbs to a massive state of shock, though doctors have done all they could despite the chaos and sheer number of Iraqi civilians coming in.
The explanations were murky and contradictory. Clearly underwhelmed by the need to explain what would be a minor incident in the victorious conquest of Baghdad, media general Vincent Brooks in Qatar lied, using the all-purpose “responding to enemy fire” defense. Radio communications up and down the chain of command, as overheard by embedded reporters, and a personal appeal to journalists from brigade commander Col. David Perkins suggested that there had been an attempt to prevent the Palestine from being targeted, but somehow it did not succeed, if in earnest (See report by the Committee to Protect Journalists: (www.cpj.org/Briefings/2003/palestine_hotel/palestine_hotel.html).
The Bush administration and the military always stated that the attack was unintentional. But as time develops their lies starts to crumble. I’m surprised by the lack of attention and in depth analysis of the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tilman stories. Probably the media don’t want to address their involvement in the propaganda machine? Most likely. But in the web of distraction, the Fog of War, I wouldn’t be surprised that the government filtered the Alec Baldwin message (they listen and record everything thanks to the Patriot Act ) in order to fuel America’s ADD and love affair with distraction and irrelevant news. (P.D. IRONY)
Next week I will be hosting a lecture from Giuliana Sgrena. She is an Italian journalist that was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents in
By the time of her kidnap, Giuliana was working on a story of how the