Accuracy in Media

CNN news executive Eason Jordan resigned after he couldn’t back up his charges that the U.S. military deliberately attacked and killed journalists in Iraq. Jordan tried to talk his way out of the controversy, but when that failed he quit. However, a former CNN employee came forward to take up Eason Jordan’s cause. Danny Schechter says that he asked Jordan if “he could help me get on CNN to discuss and debate the issue.” Contacted by one of Schechter’s associates, Jordan replied, “I will let my colleagues know of Danny’s availability as an on-air guest. I thank you and wish you well.”

Schechter has an impressive background in journalism, having worked for CNN and ABC, among other news organizations. It’s not clear when he made his far left turn, but he is not shy about advertising it these days. He recently participated in a so-called “World Tribunal on Iraq.” The group’s website features a complaint filed by somebody named Matthew K. Owen with the International Criminal Court. It asserts that President Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and other U.S. leaders are guilty of war crimes because of what happened at Abu Ghraib and other facilities. But two official investigations, one conducted by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and one conducted by Vice Admiral Albert Church, have said there is no evidence that top U.S. officials approved or condoned a policy of torture.

Schechter provided testimony for this tribunal on the role of the media in covering the Iraq war. He insists the media were too pro-war in their coverage. After hearing Schechter and others, the tribunal found the media “guilty of deception” and contributing to the commission of war crimes by the U.S. Schechter has also produced a film that asks, “Were Journalists Targeted in Iraq?” This was produced before the controversy over Eason Jordan. We have requested a copy of the film to review. Schechter says that his film points to Kate Adie of the BBC, who “was told by the Pentagon that independent journalists would be targeted.”

We tracked down these comments, which were made before the Iraq War, and that’s not exactly what she said. What she claims to have been told by an unnamed “senior officer in the Pentagon” is that “if uplinks-that is, the television signals out of… Baghdad” were detected by U.S. military aircraft “they’d be fired down on,” even if they were journalists. It’s clear from the comments, if you make the assumption that they are accurately reported from a real person, that the military had targeted unauthorized transmissions out of Iraq that were perceived to be aiding the enemy. What’s more, the reference is to taking out satellite uplink positions, not the journalist themselves.

Adie’s comments were posted on a website devoted to independent media under the headline, “Pentagon Threatens to Kill Independent Journalists.” Someone with common sense responded by saying, “The Pentagon has a legitimate interest in controlling information in the war zone. [Independent] reporters carry the risk of revealing information that could prove deadly to our troops and therefore ultimately to Iraqi civilians. Any uplink that provides uncleared information is a legitimate target, and the chaos-mongering fool who sets it up must accept the risks associated with being nearby.”

Since Adie’s quotation is not as authoritative as he claimed, perhaps we can anticipate that Schechter’s film will be updated with a contribution from Eason Jordan, his old friend.




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