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Better News Coverage in Iraq: Say the Truth! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Four years have elapsed since the war began in Iraq. Once again, we are presented with an occasion to review and try to understand what everyone seems to have failed to explain. Violence is still rampant and the level it has reached requires the kind of rationality and thought that are no longer available.

Last week an American general said that a group of suicide bombers had intentionally trapped a car carrying children in order to mislead security forces stationed at checkpoints.

The mere thought is chilling…

Western media was quick to use the information, disseminating and displaying it all over the news. On the Arab side, there were doubts and skepticism regarding the credibility of the story. This was evident through the casual and light manner through which the information was dealt with when in fact it is a matter that demands grave attention and scrutiny.

I’d rather use the term ‘doubted’ than say ‘took lightly’ which would be even more chilling than the incident itself if it were true. The astounding reality is that nothing instills fear in anyone when it comes to the ongoing events in Iraq; the news is no longer of central importance – except in terms of new political and sectarian alliances.

In the United States, where the dominant media trend was one of campaigning to promote the war in 2003, today attempts are actively being made by independent organizations and entities to pressure major media outlets and newspapers to tackle the events in Iraq in better, more in-depth and balanced manner than what it was before and after the war.

The American campaign operates under the slogan ‘Say the Truth!” and has emerged out of a thorough and documented assessment of the US media’s performance before and after the war on Iraq. Backed by the most important statements made by journalists and senior commentators in major American media institutions, the campaign is also supported by the unsubstantiated claims made by President George Bush’s administration and the information and justifications given to go to war – allegations that were later proven wrong. Furthermore, a mechanism has been put in place to tackle with the way in which American media deals with the reality unfolding in Iraq, especially in terms of the basic factors – the most significant of which is the Iraqi body count.

Undoubtedly the dominant American media trend needs to reassess itself in terms of its role in Iraq – particularly because a similar tactic is adopted today in dealing with the issue in Iran. However, such an evaluation is much more urgently required in the Arab media, which has failed to represent the long and bitter tragedies endured by the Iraqis during the era of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Likewise, it has failed in portraying the reality of the war, which was propagated as the American defeat in Iraq, and which was also proven false in the end. But what is even worse is the Arab media’s more glaring failure to stay updated on the truth of the present Iraqi suffering – except from the sectarian clashes angle.

Accountability and self-assessment as terms and concepts are still not part of our dictionaries. Using children in suicide operations is not exceptional news but the Secretary-General of the United Nations trembling because of an explosion that targeted the Green Zone in a live broadcast conference in Baghdad seems to be an event worth exaggerated highlighting and repetition all over the news. All the major Arab news organizations aired reruns of the scene in which a terrified Ban Ki-Moon appeared in a distasteful manner. With their repetitive broadcast of the same scene, they failed to inform us who had fallen victim in this devastating explosion!