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The Sound of Silence

Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive, confesses to covering up torture and murder by the Saddam regime in the NYT (free registration required; link via The New Republic and Instapundit).

Jordan bleats that he had to protect CNN staffers who were also Iraqi citizens, even if this meant hiding terrible atrocities. If this is true, I fail to understand why CNN employed Iraqi citizens, rather than US citizens who could be brought back to safety. An organisation like CNN could readily train new translators if Iraqi-Americans would not have been granted visas. Failing to report these events, and failing to give a proper characterisation to the brutality of the regime, certainly risked prolonging the suffering of the Iraqi people; either that, or CNN is merely in the light-entertainment business, in which case it should not have been in Iraq at all.

Two days after publication, this may be old news, but with no previous mention here I thought it was shocking (literally, shocking) enough to post belatedly.

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8 comments to The Sound of Silence

  • Byron

    Yeah, it’s unfortunate, but not wholly unexpected, from CNN. Another possible solution would have been to simply sell (or give) the reports to other media and simply require that they make no mention of CNN as the source. Of course, that’s assuming the content of the stories themselves isn’t enough to give away the identities of the Iraqi reporters and informants.

  • Jeffersonian

    I suppose that Eason Jordan could rationalize his craven behavior by convincing himself that CNN would be in a position to chronicle the atrocities of Saddam’s vile regime, even if it failed to report them in real time. Perhaps he was waiting for that enormous story that could not be suppressed for his cue to exit Iraq and dump his memory core of all the hideous goings-on he had seen.

    Yet to allow Saddam’s sons-in-law to be lured back to Iraq and wind up butchered without saying anything smacks of something more base and venal behind the silence. I’d wager that even if that “big story” came along (assuming the sons-in-law story wasn’t it), Jordan could have talked himself into staying for, oh, just a bit longer.

  • Jacob

    Is it possible that their ideological slant, i.e. their wish tho prevent the war was also a factor in hiding these stories ?
    Scott Ritter (the ex UN arms inspector) admitted he knew about child torturing in Iraq, but abstained from mentioning it because he didn’t want to aid the supporters of war.
    We knew all along that what we get from the media is in great part just propaganda and not news.

  • Matt

    It’s probably not reasonable to expect that they would hire non-Iraqi translators. If you read Franklin Foer’s piece in TNR, you’ll see that Iraq used its ability to deny visas to ensure that most of their employees had to be locals:

    Even correspondents for CNN and the BBC, which maintain permanent offices in Baghdad, must continually apply for visas, which typically last only two weeks. And without visas for their own correspondents, the networks have to rely on local Iraqis to keep their offices running–locals who are even more subject to government reprisals than are visiting Americans.

    In my opinion, CNN (and others) should have followed Foer’s advice and reported on Iraq from outside the country or inside the Kurdish north.

  • Sandy P.

    All of them do it, and the Palis pull the same.

    Doesn’t it make one wonder that if most of *the world* got together and reported on the Palis’ atrocities and got thrown out, how that would affect the Palis in the long run?

    We in America will not believe anything coming out of AJ or Abu Dabai.

    If the Palis only relied on ME stations to report their news, would the West believe them? Would it speed up Arafat’s dethroning if he doesn’t have a “legit” western mouthpiece?

  • This is hardly surprising. Reporters routinely go easy on governments and large corporations just because they won’t be allowed into the next press conference if they ask tough questions. Compared to that, protecting your employees from torture is actually a pretty good reason.

    The moral of the story is, don’t trust anything reporters say.

  • Dave Farrell

    This is a very tricky area, encountered in some degree by editors almost in every country, including — Britain.

    When Andreas Whittam-Smith;s crew founded the Independent, one of their first rules was: “No joining the parliamentary lobby group”. The reason is fairly obvious, if you hope to portray yourself as independent: the price of being in the lobby group was accepting unattributable briefings on which political reporters then based their copy without letting on that this wasn’t quite fact, just something someone in the government was claiming. Thus spin became difficult to detect. By staying out of the lobby, you could blow the whistle on the government, provided yoiu were good enough to track down your own stories.

    It was not a popular measure, because many modern journos are accustomed to spoonfeeding.

    Likewise, many media corporations have cut their losses on the truth front so they can continue to operate in Singapore, and many other similar countries.Iraq was currently the most extreme example.

    This is not to excuse CNN. What is required is the experience and wisdom to know when and where to draw the line. Clearly where atrocities are being committed, no self-respecting media house can keep its head down. It is then a matter of publish and be damned.

    This revelation says a lot about the current gutlessness and shortsightedness of media organisations: too big, too profit-orientated, and run by bean-counters without a single journalistic scruple. (I don’t mean editors, or not all of them, anyway.)

  • Craig

    CNN is part of a public company, AOL Time Warner. That Jordan, a senior executive of this public company, can casually admit to supressing certain news relating to murder and torture is mind boggling. If other senior executives of this organization were involved in the decision it borders on the bizzare.

    If the raw material were, say copper, instead of news being “mined” in Iraq, there would be no question about propriety. CNN intentionally surpressed information of criminal and clearly heinous activities because to reveal them would jeapordize their supply of the news material being mined. Doesn’t this smack of corporate greed at its worst? Doesn’t covering up murder plans because of greed make Enron’s greed-motivated accounting shenanigans look tame?

    Where is the outrage?