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PRESS PERILS IN IRAQ

Prepared by: CFR.org Staff
January 20, 2006

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Attacks against journalists are common in Iraq, and more than seventy journalists and media assistants have been killed since March 2003, according to Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF). Several dozens have been kidnapped. The latest case is that of Jill Carroll, a 28-year-old stringer for the Christian Science Monitor, who was abducted by insurgents in early January. Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in an interview with cfr.org, says Washington, along with other governments whose citizens are caught up in the violence as they try to report the war, do have a role to play. "If you have an insurgent group kidnapping foreign journalists," she says, "is a U.S. government public statement helpful? I'm sure the government would see it as important to express its support if one of its citizens is kidnapped, whether it's a journalist or someone in a different job."

But Cooper also notes it is Iraqi journalists, not Americans, who are most at risk. Because of the restrictions on mobility the insurgency has placed on reporters, they rely heavily on Iraqi staff to do the bulk of the field reporting. Not surprisingly then, two-thirds of the journalists killed in Iraq have been local Iraqis, according to RSF. "In no prior conflict—not in Vietnam, nor in Lebanon, nor in Bosnia—have journalists been singled out for such sustained and violent attack," writes Michael Massing in the New York Review of Books. Johanna McGeary, who covered Iraq for TIME, writes of the difficulties of getting out of the fortified bureau during her years in Baghdad (Century Foundation). On media freedoms, Iraq ranks 157th out of 167 countries, according to the RSF's 2005 World Press Freedom Index. Freedom House reports that at least fifty-seven journalists were killed worldwide in the line of duty last year. Given these facts, McGeary, who frets about the lack of coverage outside Baghdad's Green Zone and dwindling space and air time Iraq gets back home, also offers an explanation: "In that environment, more organizations and more correspondents are deciding the risk is not worth it."

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