Embedded Journalists

MUSTAFA HUSSAIN mustafa.hussain at GET2NET.DK
Fri Apr 4 10:20:20 UTC 2003

Excerpts from  "Retroactive terrorists and embedded journalists" by Uri Avnery - a veteran Israeli journalist and peace activist
(source:  http://www.gush-shalom.org) 
  #  Presstitution. In the Middle Ages, armies were accompanied by large numbers of 
prostitutes. In the Iraq war, the American and British armies are accompanied by large 
numbers of journalists.
     I coined the Hebrew equivalent of "presstitution" when I was the editor of an Israeli 
newsmagazine, to denote the journalists who turn the media into whores. Physicians are bound 
by the Hippocratic oath to save life as far as possible. Journalists are bound by professional 
honor to tell the truth, as they see it.   
      Never before have so many journalists betrayed their duty as in this war. Their original sin 
was their agreement to be "embedded" in army units. This American term sounds like being 
put to bed, and that is what it amounts to in practice.
     A journalist who lies down in the bed of an army unit becomes a voluntary slave. He is 
attached to the commander's staff, led to the places the commander is interested in, sees what 
the commander wants him or her to see, is turned away from the places the commanders does 
not want him to see, hears what the my wants him to hear and does not hear what the army 
does not want him to hear. He is worse than an official army spokesman, because he pretends 
to be an independent reporter.
     The problem is not that he only sees a small piece of the grand mosaic of the war, but that 
he transmits a mendacious view of that piece.
     In the Falklands and the first Gulf wars, journalists were simply not allowed to reach the 
campaign area. It seems that a bright fellow at the Pentagon had an idea: "Why keep them 
out? Let's allow them in, they'll be told what to write and broadcast and eat out of our hands 
like puppies."
     # Shame. Since the age of 19, I have been a journalist. I was always proud of it. On 
innumerable forms I wrote "Profession: Journalist."
     I am ashamed when I see a large group of journalists from all over the world sitting in front 
of a many-starred general, listening eagerly to what is called a "briefing" and not posing the 
simplest relevant question. And when a courageous reporter does stand up and ask a real 
question, no one protests when the general responds with banal propaganda slogans instead of 
giving a real answer.
     Remember the virtual surrender of the Iraqi 51st division? The "uprising" of the people of 
Basra that never was? The thousand and one other lies, that have gone with the wind? Where 
were the journalists when all this happened?
     Almost all the journalistic reports of this war are a crooked mirror. We see in it a 
manipulated, distorted and mendacious picture. Therefore, praise be to the few who, like Peter 
Arnett, are ready to sacrifice their career on the altar of truth. 

     # The bottom of the barrel. I am ashamed of being a journalist. I am doubly ashamed of 
being an Israeli journalist.
     In this war, all sections of the Israeli media have sunk to a new low. No criticism at all get
published. The opponents of the war have effectively been silenced. Even in the American 
media, some voices of dissent are being heard. In Israel, this is not possible. It would be worse 
than treason.
     The only exception I know of is the TV reporter San Semama, who stole into Iraq, was 
caught by the Americans, imprisoned in a jeep and starved for 48 hours. He saw what was 
really happening. Parts of his reports were published here and there, and then the curtain of 
silence came down. All the rest - journalists, pundits, the bunch of ex-officers and so on - 
appear on our screens, hour after hour, and repeat like parrots the American propaganda-line, 
even when it is manifestly ridiculous.

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