Accuracy in Media

When it rains, it pours. That is certainly the case for CNN, now that it has admitted that its nerve gas story about America’s Vietnam veterans was unsupported by the evidence. Organizations concerned about media coverage of Israel, the Middle East, and Bosnia have now come forward to say that CNN has to be held accountable for mistakes and deceptions in those areas.

The first group to take aim at CNN in the wake of the nerve gas fiasco is CAMERA, which stands for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. It says, “As CNN’s recent Sarin gas caper proves, the network sometimes falls far short of that truthful ideal [to report accurately and fully]. While CNN has been engulfed in an avalanche of criticism since the Sarin story was exposed as a hoax, a key question has been ignored: Was it really a complete surprise that CNN would traffic in false allegations masquerading as fact?”

In a national ad, CAMERA says the answer is “no.” It cites several factual errors and glaring omissions in CNN’s coverage of the Middle East. One charge made by CNN was that Israeli mistreatment of Arabs was causing a “dwindling” in the Arab population in Jerusalem. In fact, the Arab population of Jerusalem is growing four times faster than the Jewish population. CNN was provided authoritative statistics on this clear-cut error but refused to issue a correction.

Another group of veterans—Americans from World War II—is taking aim at CNN’s coverage of the former Yugoslavia. These veterans were shot down over Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in World War II and rescued by Serbian national forces. Today, the Serbs have become the bad guys, highlighted on CNN and in other media as committing horrible atrocities in the Bosnian civil war. But these vets say in their ad, which ran in the Washington Times, that CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour rarely shows the atrocities committed against the Serbs.

They say that one of Amanpour’s programs described a photograph of a scene of mutilated victims as victims of the Serbs when they were actually Serbs who had been axed to death by Croatian forces. They say this particular photo was used by Time magazine, Newsweek and 60 Minutes without identifying the victims as Serbs. Amanpour has said that a television correspondent’s most important assets are trust and credibility. But the vets say, “How do omissions of facts and misidentification of victims add up to trust and credibility?”

The vets say this kind of slanted coverage is why thousands of Americans serve in Bosnia today, and why NATO intervened in the conflict against the Serbs. They say that the propaganda mill is now setting the stage for sending our GI’s to Kosovo. This was confirmed by Gary Dempsey, a foreign policy analyst with the Cato Institute, who recently visited the area. A political leader of the forces promoting independence for Kosovo said he was hoping for NATO intervention. But he said that was possible only if they get international media coverage. And that, he said, “depends on how we look on CNN.”

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