CNN Exec A Blog War Casualty


The resignation of CNN’s top news exec Eason Jordan after he allegedly accused U.S. troops of targeting journalists in Iraq has prompted the now-familiar rite of questioning the significance and long-term prospects of the blog movement.

As Monday’s New York Times article reveals, some regular media types view the blogs with a mounting level of contempt. Elsewhere, the blog movement faces even harsher opponents that— prison, for one. In Iran, blogger Arash Sigarchi was detained in January and is still in prison. Mojtaba Saminejad had been released but was apparently just re-arrested for using his blog to defend three colleagues who’d been busted on charges like “publishing false information with the aim of disrupting public order”.In their honor, the Committee to Protect Bloggers has designated February 22 “Free Mojtaba and Arash Day,” and is encouraging people to dedicate their blog that day to the two men or contact the Iranian authorities to protest their prosecution.

What’s different about the blog hit on Jordan—as opposed to, say, the assault on CBS after the flawed memos story last fall—is that instead of reacting to news reported in the mainstream press, analyzing or dissecting it, a blog broke the news of Jordan’s remarks. Blogs break news often, but rarely does it permeate so quickly and powerfully into the mainstream media world.

The news broke in a posting by Rony (identified by the Times as Rony Abovitz) at on January 28. It read, in part: “Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times . . . ”

Rony does not offer an exact quote, and the WEF won’t release the videotape of the session. The official summary of the event doesn’t mention Jordan’s Iraq statement. CNN has claimed that, “Many blogs have taken Mr. Jordan’s remarks out of context,” although one of the guys who shared the dais with Jordan, Congressman Barney Frank, tells conservative columnist Michelle Malkin that Rony’s version of Jordan’s comments was basically accurate.

If Jordan said what they say he said, there is little evidence to support the charge that there is a deliberate U.S. policy of killing reporters in Iraq. But there have been incidents that suggest problems with overall U.S. engagement policy, like:

  • The April 2003 incident at the Palestine hotel in Baghdad, where two journalists were killed by a U.S. tank shell. The Committee to Protect Journalists found that the “attack on the journalists, while not deliberate, was avoidable, because while U.S. commanders “were intent on not hitting” the hotel, “These senior officers apparently failed to convey their concern to the tank commander who fired on the hotel.”
  • In September 2004, Al Arabiya reporter Mazen al-Tumeizi was recording a story when a U.S. missile killed him in Baghdad. The video of the scene catches him screaming “I’m dying” or “I’m going to die.” Two other reporters were also hurt in that attack, and other civilians were killed.
  • In August 2003, Mazen Dana was killed outside Abu Ghraib prison. U.S. troops say they mistook his camera for a rocket launcher.
  • In April 2004, the military acknowledged killing an Iraqi journalist and his driver.
  • In March 2004, the military accepted responsibility for the deaths of two other journalists.

Of course, Iraq is a dangerous place. Civilians—reporters and others—are often killed. And as Evan Wright pointed out in the Voice, the fog of combat in Iraq does not always allow for careful selection of targets. But the stories about Jordan focused more on what he said or didn’t say, rather than whether the incidents involving reporters in Iraq suggest the need for refined engagement policies.

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