Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Truth Lies Within

Para Mónica


"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 Iraq war I have always been critical (publicly through my professional endeavor) of the role of the US Media in the coverage of the Iraq War. Some called me a cynic, no one dared to call me unpatriotic, because most in real life knows where I stand in that matter. I felt the urgency and the call to clear the media fog and help the public see the facts that the international media was reporting and condemn how blunt the Bush administration was with its propaganda machine. Yesterday, the international journalists associations that constantly called upon the lies from the Bush administration were redeemed.

Back in the late 90s and early 2000 while I was in Spain, I met a wonderful couple: Julio Fuentes and my dear friend and classmate Mónica García Prieto. Both brilliant and fearless journalists with a real commitment for the truth and the people’s right to know without commercial or corporate agendas. The truth at any cost. A commitment lacking at most corporate and US media outlets who bend their editorial lines in favor of their advertisers and political access.

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 Europe. A career that witnessed the Nicaragua and El Salvador conflicts, the Panama invasion, first Golf War, Croatia, Sarajevo, Chechnya, Kosovo, Russia among other horrors.

November 19, 2001 while traveling in caravan of 8 vehicles and 20 reporters from Jalabad to Kabul, they were ambushed by the militia. El Mundo’s Julio Fuentes, Corriere della Sera’s, Maria Grazia Cutuli, and Reuters’ Australian photojournalist Harry Burton and Afgan photojournalist Azizullah Haidari and their interpreter where killed during the attack.

Two years later, his widow El Mundo war correspondent Mónica García Prieto, was assigned to cover the battle of Baghdad. Traditionally the Palestine Hotel has always been the preferred press quarters for international media in Iraq. From that location, CNN broadcasted their breakthrough “Boys from Baghdad” coverage of the first Golf War. This time around it wouldn’t be different. But now US media would flee the site and only European and ME media would stay. Mónica was the only female.


April 8, 2003, the invasion starts and it would give a glimpse of how the Pentagon would conduct their media manipulations and lies.

From the reporters’ notes:

As the fall of Baghdad approached, some 300 international journalists were based in the Palestine Hotel, on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. They had relocated from the Al-Rashid when CNN left and moved to the Palestine. Most reporters assumed that the presence of CNN would provide a sort of cover, that the US military wouldn’t bomb CNN. José Couso and reporter Jon Sistiaga, reporting the war for Spanish TV channel Tele 5, followed suit.

Early in the morning of April 8, the day before the fall of Baghdad, a tank with the Third Infantry Division’s Fourth Brigade, 64th Armor Regiment standing on the Al-Jumuriya bridge over the Tigris River aims its turret and knocks out a camera on the roof of the offices of Abu-Dhabi Television. From room 1403 in the Palestine 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.

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 Baghdad 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.

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 12 noon. 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 February 4, 2005. The Italian secret service coordinated and executed a rescue mission. Although her rescue was successful, her convoy was attacked by the US military’s “friendly fire” on their way to the airport. The mission commander Nicola Calipari was killed and Giuliana seriously injured. This situation brought distress within the Berlusconi and Bush administration.

By the time of her kidnap, Giuliana was working on a story of how the US forces used chemical weapons (phosphorus and napalm) at the battle of Falluja in their operation Phantom Fury. For an administration obsessed with shielding the truth that sounds like a good reason for the “friendly treatment”.

9 comentarios:

newsjunkie said...

Yes, unfortunately many in America treat some journalists like celebrities. Can't imagine who. But the fact remains- journalists are there to go find the information and bring it to the public.

It's absolutely horrible... they just are doing their jobs, and sometimes people don't like it, and unfortunately they get killed for it. Being in the midst of war is not a pleasant place. Some of the correspondents today are right in the middle of the most dangerous areas and are aware they could get killed, but they press on. That's an amazing testament to who they are.

Certain media groups should stop marketing their journalists like a product for the consumer (gee, who is that?). They destroy credibility that way, and I'm sure the journalist that worked hard isn't pleased to see their career getting flushed down the loo just for the profit of the company. *off my soapbox now*

The Fog of War, the media fog- yeah. Occasionally I have sent polite (rude) emails to CNN about their coverage. World news? WHERE? There is so much more in the world to report than some of the ridiculous stories they present as "news". There are 24 hours on CNNHLN- that's 86,400 seconds with which they could report the atrocities going on... but they don't. Why?

I don't know about you, but I can't stand to watch it. I read CNN.com and ignore every show, every broadcast, and every single thing they have decided to air, and yes, that does indeed include AC360. Sorry Anderson, I like you but your producers all have severe cases of Cranial Rectitis. I cannot bear to see you standing there one more minute reporting something I don't care about and I think makes you look like an idiot.

Journalists die to report to the world. I'm not suggesting he put his life in danger just to please me, no. I'm just saying that CNN needs to re-structure. Fast.

ivy said...

Sort of making connection with the previous Courtney's post, this really resembles the already infamous treatment of russian journalists who aren't serving as pocket government spokespeople. And we all know that in the field of information (and not only)russia is going backwords to the soviet union type of regime. Funny enough Colbert yesterday talked about how american press should be made to follow same demands that russian press is. Oh well, I don't think it's that far off. And as I was writing this I came across
this Guardian articleFascist America, in 10 easy steps (through crooksandliars). very relevant

newsjunkie said...

From the 360 page on CNN:

Regular features include Anderson's take on the world of media and the news, with in-depth coverage of justice, politics, health and pop culture, all from contributors who are as engaged, and engaging, as Anderson.

I wasn't aware that Anderson had gone from "serious journalist" to 'eccentric guy with an opinion', but hey, there it is.... Now they're marketing him as, um... looks like something almost along the lines of commentator. You know, if that's what he really were doing, that would be fine. But he's not. I have no idea what he is really doing and sometimes I don't think he knows either.

I liked the way the show used to be- odd, quirky, funny, not exactly serious- just like HIM. And then it got all... I don't even know how to describe that. Remember the Nth degree? Yeah, I do, and I'm going to say "longingly". Personally I rather enjoyed the extremely bizarre things he'd bring up- swearing on TV, mentos and exploding diet coke, whatever- and they've sort of kept it with "the shot", but not really. (BTW, mentos and diet coke? It's not a chemical reaction, which is what most people think. It's all about physics, baby!)

And so I continue to think about this post by Chris. What happened to serious journalism? What happens if you're trying really really hard to be a serious journalist and you're really not? Does that make you a bad person? Well it might if you keep it up... doesn't mean you don't care, just I feel like... you should always be true to yourself, and who you are inside. Fakey fake is not something I like. I like real people complete with flaws. Like the Freaks mantra: don't think for me, don't think you know what I want to hear. I want to hear the truth. And yeah, I can handle it.

Anonymous said...

Christiane

I would like to e-mail you, can you still be reached at @Freakspeakers?

newsjunkie said...

Oh, I just had to say- because my last post makes it look like I think CNN is retarded- that the "Stop Snitchin'"piece on Tuesday, April 24, was outstanding. It was one of the best pieces I have seen in quite a while, and definitely Anderson at his best. Sometimes he can really shine. I sat there with my mouth open at times, it made such an impact on me. I've got it saved forever on my DVR :)

But I do have to point out that AC should really not try to talk like a black guy when saying some of the words. Yo, white boy- you sound like a dork.

Anonymous said...

The email is christiane@freakspeaker.com and yes she reads it.

ivy said...

whoever didn't watch Bill Moyers Journal "Buying the war" can do it on pbs site. It investigates same phenomenon christiane brought up. How US MSM fail to do their job, in example of iraq war. It's a great program.

From the pbs website intro:

"Buying the War" examines the press coverage in the lead-up to the war as evidence of a paradigm shift in the role of journalists in democracy and asks, four years after the invasion, what's changed? "More and more the media become, I think, common carriers of administration statements and critics of the administration," says THE WASHINGTON POST's Walter Pincus. "We've sort of given up being independent on our own."

Christiane said...

Yes anon, you might contact me at
christiane@freakspeaker.com
and if you have MSN messenger, you can add me. Please send me an email prior to adding me to the MSN to authorize it.

Anonymous said...

When can we expect something on Anderson Cooper?

MANIFESTO

Don't think for me. Don't assume what I want to hear or read. Give me facts. Give me reasons. But not yours. Bring me debate. Enlighten me. Today, accountability is masked behind anonymity; bylines are hidden by zeros and ones. Everyone publishes; everyone is "in the know." Ethics are non-existent. Speculation is king. The truth is masked and a hostage. Empowered by our minds, WE ARE THE FREAKSPEAKERS!

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