Instapundit tries to spin the fact that news coverage of the Iraq war has dropped as a sign that things are getting better in Iraq.
HOW DO YOU KNOW THINGS ARE BETTER IN IRAQ? There’s less media coverage.
Why is there less media coverage? It’s because there are barely any reporters left to report the news — good or bad.
No official tally of reporters on the ground exists, but a head count of American print correspondents, not including wire service scribes or freelancers, caps out at around 20. McClatchy has cut its American reporting staff in half, the Boston Globe has folded its bureau altogether, the Washington Post doesn’t have nearly the presence it once did (although the paper wouldn’t confirm exactly how many remain), and the number of embeds—more than 200 at a high point in early 2005—was down to 48 by mid-April of this year. Edward Wong, who has covered the war since 2003 for the New York Times, describes the Western press corps in Iraq as “a skeleton crew.
According to a report in The Financial Times on 17 August, the conflict in Iraq has become the deadliest of any modern war for the press. The report is based on figures from journalist organisations. At least 112 editors, reporters and photographers, and a further 40 media support staff such as translators and drivers, have been killed on duty in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). By contrast, the CPJ estimates, 38 journalists died covering Algeria’s conflict between 1993 and 1996, 66-71 died covering Vietnam, and 68 died while reporting on the second world war.
Last year’s death toll in Iraq was the highest the CPJ had recorded in a single country since its foundation in 1981.
The CPJ’s estimate counts only those deaths that its researchers can verify as having been caused by hostile action – such as deliberately targeting a journalist or when a reporter is caught in cross-fire – and excludes accidents such as car and aircraft crashes.
Other estimates put the death toll even higher. Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for press freedom, calculates that at least 198 journalists and media assistants have been killed in the conflict and scores more have been kidnapped. The International Federation of Journalists puts the number above 200.
But what about the Iraqi stringers? Why aren’t they filing dispatches about our magnificent success? Well, for starters, because they don’t want to die.
If the news organizations are evasive about the use of Iraqi stringers, the military is sometimes openly hostile to them, says Abdul. Whenever he approaches a spot where U.S. forces have been attacked, he says, soldiers start yelling at him and sometimes even draw their guns to prevent him from covering the scene. In 2005, U.S. soldiers shot and killed Reuters soundman Waleed Khaled while he was trying to cover the shooting of two Iraqi policemen; bullets went through his U.S. Army press badge. U.S. forces then detained and interrogated his wounded coworker, cameraman Haider Khadem, for three days due to “inconsistencies in his story.” Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, the head of the U.S. military’s Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad, admits that he doesn’t like stringers’ increased role in media operations: He’s suspicious of their allegiances and thinks they feed “the symbiotic relationship between violence and the media.”
Only a right wing fanatic would think that a dearth of Iraq coverage is indicative of good news when, in fact, it’s actually the result of escalating violence.