March 22, 2003

what is the role of media (during a war)?

news is when the truth is reported as it is, and not as one would like it to be.

as i watch the iraq-war updates on tv today, i suddenly seem to recollect this first rule in the one (and only) weekend-journalism workshop i’d attended years ago.

us and uk television media want their countries to believe that the war is the only way to go — for both sides. “removing saddam will be a blessing to the iraqi people…” (blair’s address to the nation). obviously, iraqi media wants their arab population to believe saddam is in the right, and that the us and uk are their enemies, destroying their cities since three nights now.

i’ve been glued to the continuous and ‘live’ bbc and sky telecasts…the first time i’ve been following a real war in all my life.

but the reports surely make me wonder what the other side of the story could be. most of the breaking news and stories deal with the bombing in baghdad and mixed reports here and here, on how some of the iraqi troops are beginning to surrender. they also reported how us troops hoisted the american flag in umm qasr, and replaced it with the iraqi one soon after. …that saddam hussein was possibly injured or in hiding; and of course video footages of a war getting increasingly aggressive…

interestingly, the bbc yesterday also showed iraqi television-clippings of a saddam in perfect health, and a baghdad mercilessly being bombarded by the us and uk forces. another news reader on kuwait tv indicated with relief that saddam’s reign was soon coming to an end. also see “you are late. what took you so long?”

were the reports in the middle east desperate to keep up the spirits of the hiding arabs, telling them their leader was alive and well? were the reports by uk and us media desperate to tell anti-war protestors in their countries how their leaders had made the right decision… “some of the iraqis rejoiced and broke into a song and dance when the coalition reached them…,” indicating that not everyone was happy with the dictator’s rule anyway.

neither of the television media are playing up the facts, they’re all telling the truth. perhaps. but all of them certainly seem to be choosing the truths they want to be told.

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