Not since Joseph Goebbels served as Hitler’s Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda from 1933 to 1944 has the world witnessed such far-reaching media orchestration.
Banned on Wall Street and wiped off the Internet, Arab news channel al-Jazeera this week defended its coverage of the Iraq war and demanded the United States come to its senses in the name of a free press.
The bombing of Iraq’s national TV building in Baghdad during the night of 25-26 March was deliberately targeted to disrupt media documentation of the devastation caused by America’s assault on Iraqi cities. This extreme form of censorship imposed by Anglo-American military force is a reflection of the scant regard their government’s hold for free flow of information.
In the past, other media have been targeted in what are very dangerous precedents for the media industry. During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, planes attacked the headquarters of Serbian radio and TV (RTS) in the centre of Belgrade on 23 April 1999, killing 16 of its employees.
On 19 January 2001, the Israeli army blew up the headquarters of the Voice of Palestine radio and TV headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The US bombed the Kabul offices of the pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera on 12 November that year during its war in Afghanistan.
In the current invasion of Iraq, media organizations have been competing for the “best seats” in the conflict. Many journalists have been “embedded” in the military, accompanying them and reporting on developments in the war.
Yet, journalists themselves have argued that those staying with the military are greatly disadvantaged; whilst they do get the briefings from the generals they are not aware of the fuller picture. Rather they serve a purpose to send a message to the Iraqis, and to the world at large about the abilities and strength of the Allied troops.
Consequently it is unsurprising to hear contradictory information from the few journalists that are not “embedded.” Often the most shocking stories, reports and pictures are obtained by those who are not playing by the rules. These journalists take risks in their hunt for the truth and, as was seen recently, some are captured and disappear.
Even if western journalists were to report the “other” side of the story, would the news organizations run these stories? Current events show that there is a huge amount of self censorship that the western news organizations adhere to, in coordination with government demands.
The censorship and self-censorship on the captured American prisoners is far from an isolated occurrence. While all networks ran the dramatic footage of the “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad, there is limited coverage in the US of the casualties or wounded in the attacks, despite ample on-the-spot footage from the Iraqi news agency and Al Jazeera and public statements from the International Red Cross giving figures for the dead and wounded in Baghdad and Basra hospitals.
“Today, each round fired by US tanks contains 4,500 grams of solid uranium, whose particles, breathed or ingested, can cause cancer. This, and the use by both the Allies of new kinds of cluster bombs, is being covered up.” (John Pilger, ‘Six Days of Shame’, 26/03/03)
Once again, the public is being denied the reality of war. Why shouldn’t we see the true nature of this criminal invasion?