Along the Tracks

Friday, April 11, 2003

Times too

Also in the opinion section of today’s New York Times, Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive, lays bare his soul of the terrible conditions inside Iraq over the past decade-plus that the news network has maintained a Baghdad bureau.

The tales are bad enough, but perhaps worse, at least to me, is Jordan’s implicit betrayal of journalistic ethics. Sure, he’s telling the stories now, but if they had been heard five, 10 years ago, maybe further subsequent horrors could have been stopped. Perhaps the international community, still fresh with the memory of the Kuwait invasion and Iraqi atrocities against the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings, would have reunited to end that regime before another half a million people had to die and millions more had to suffer privation and torture.

Instead, it was more important to Jordan and other honchos at CNN to keep open a Baghdad bureau which could parrot the line of the Saddam Hussein regime - a line Jordan now admits was filled with obvious falsehoods his reporters could have countered firsthand. His feeble defense is the news organization’s worry that telling the stories about the real Iraq would have endangered Iraqis on the payroll and others inside the country. What!?!? By his own account, CNN’s Baghdad employees were undergoing torture and sometimes disappearing. The network was not only witnessing atrocities, it was experiencing them - but it didn’t want to tell anybody about it. Granted, a decision to come forward would have been difficult - such is the case for all victims of violence, still under the thumb of their oppressors. But this wasn’t just some bottling company or stamping plant - this was the Cable News Network, an organization whose entire existence is based on a supposed dedication to bringing factual stories to the world.

By his confessional in the Times, Eason Jordan shows CNN to be little different than Al Jazeera.

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