Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vicious Fighting in Libya: CNN vs Fox News!

War reporters sometimes war, sometimes err, even on air!
A supposed scoop by Fox's Jennifer Griffin about British missiles enraged CNN reporter Nic Robertson, who went ballistic on air. Murdoch's plucky Pentagon correspondent reported that her sources said a followup British airstrike on Gadaffi's compound had to be called off because crews from CNN and Reuters tv were in the way yesterday, and unwittingly were used by the Libyan government as human shields. She said the Brits only were able to release two of seven warheads because the journalists were in the way. Later she corrected her report, and acknowledged that Fox News had in fact sent one person along. The Daily Mail and other tabloids repeated that "SAS spotters" called off strikes after seeing the western journalists, and the report was quickly regurgitated by the Agence France Presse. It has since come to light that Fox News sent a security guard with a video camera on the official press bus while its correspondent Steve Harrigan stayed in a Tripoli hotel room in order to broadcast live-- rather than "be duped". Was this guard considered more expendable than a staffer? Certainly it is a distressing management decision.
(The cable news smackdown continued, with one of Huffington Post's paid phone interviewers filing response from the much-maligned Harrigan.

A busload of approximately 40 western journalists had stayed for a half hour at the compound, where Gadaffi was conspicuously absent, Robertson said. On board was at least one Murdoch reporter, from the London Times, as well as the security guard with a flip-cam or a cell phone. Press reports that a number of Libyan civilians, including children and women, have volunteered to act as human shields are very widespread. Presumably, even unwitting human shields would not have been allowed to leave, but be forced to stay in place. A British wing commander interviewed by the Press Association said of the Libya operation: "It went very well; it went as we briefed it." This account appears to contradict Griffin's defense scoop out of Washington, however.

What gets lost in all the rancor between Fox and CNN tv channels is the fact that any western journalist who flew straight to Tripoli would have been accredited by Gaddafi's government. The accredited media would be offered a chance to ride along on some official tours to get soundbites of the government line and photos of the official targets struck. (This tour of the compound, also bombed in the 80s, has been standard Libyan practice for the past quarter century!) Most media reps aware that they might be seen to be manipulated in this way, and would include any official quotes as balance to whatever else they might ferret out through investigative reporting. Some journalists had hesitated to go into Tripoli because of this ethical dilemma of providing safer but possibly slanted reports. Other reporters and photographers who crossed over from the chaos of Egypt and had no official stamp in their passports would be considered illegal entrants, and subject to deportation. (Or worse: capture as suspected spies if found behind rebel lines, as happened to 4 NY Times journalists, and thirteen others.)

It would be helpful if the antagonistic "moonbats" and "wingnuts" were more interested in the truth about the West's third war front in the Islamic world than in discrediting one another. It cheapens everyone involved.

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