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Reporting Iraq

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Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria Working as a journalist in Iraq has never been harder. More than 200 media and media support staff, most of them Iraqis, have been killed since 2003. Dozens more have been kidnapped or arrested. Richard Rowley and David Enders took a look at the dangers of working as a journalist in Bagdad. At a press conference in Najaf, south of Bagdad, an Iraqi cameraman inadvertantly demonstrates how dangerous it is to work as a journalist here. Most foreign journalist find it impossible to work without private security guards or embedding with the US military. The cost of working here and the lack of US public interest in news from Iraq means the number of foreign journalists has shrunk dramatically since 2003. Jane Arraf Correspondent, NBC News [speaks in the background, This is our news room, that's my . . . ] The Hamra Hotel, which is heavily guarded by blast walls and private Iraqi security is one of the last two places western journalists in Baghdad live outside the Green Zone. [Jane Arraf] Well when I first started doing television here, which was in the late 90's, when I opened the bureau, as the first permanent bureau chief for CNN here, you were followed everywhere. Your freedom of movement was restricted. It was really incredibly hard to verify a single fact. And we've kind of gone back, in a sense, to that same kind of dynamic. There are a lot of places I can't go to unless I'm with the military. The thing that most of us feel is our duty to do is to talk to people ourselves, is to see things ourselves, and then evaluate the information and give the most accurate, fullest picture of what it is we're reporting. A lot of times we can't do that anymore. If you see a byline in the newspaper, if you see a face on television, that doesn't automatically mean that the person was there. And as an old school journalist, I tend not to trust anything unless I've seen it myself, or unless someone I trust has seen it themselves. Let's take an example, something blows up, we call the Iraqi police, we would hope that the Iraqi police officer we're talking to would be in a position to know what's going on, and we go to great pains to make sure we're talking to the right Iraqi police officer. I'm not sure that happens all the time. It's really hard to evaluate, again who they are, or whether they know the information that they're telling you. So it's just one step removed, in fact it's more than one step. It's probably 3 or 4 steps removed from the kind of reporting that most of us are used to doing. It's really hard to do those stories you'd think would be really simple. You know, to show people how Iraqis are living. To go into an Iraqi home and say, "This is Fatma, and here's what she's cooking for dinner," and, "This this is how they're dealing with not having electricity." we're now surrounding their house with security and obviously western vehicles. And it's dangerous for us and it's dangerous for them. We can do it in little bits at a time. And we can do it in snapshots. But we can't really do it the way we used to be able to do it 2 years ago. Hussein. Iraqi Journalist. [Translated to English] Someone called me and said, "Is this Hussein?" and I said "Yes, this is." They asked me to quit my job. They said that I do not work for media organizations. They are connected to foreign intelligence agencies They told me, "Quit your job. We know everything about you." They said if I did not quit my job, they would take action agains me. I said, "Okay." The next day I went to work, driving my car, and I noticed there was a car following me. I pretended that my car broke down, and I parked near a checkpoint until the car passed. After forty-five minutes to an hour, I went to work. I didn't see the car after that. I stayed at work that day. The next day I received another call. the same thing, the same person called. You know, if you go to Syria or to any other country. you would have to have a lot of money to be able to support your family. Leila Fadel. Baghdad Bureau Chief, McClatchy Newspapers. Just thinking, you know, that if somebody did want to get in, this might be a little bit harder for them to get in. Don't film that. Yeah, I've been coming in and out since June 2005. It's really different. Actually the first time I came in, we could still go out to lunch. We'd go shopping regularly. Do touristy things. Take a boat ride across the river. Go see the Kadimiyah Shrine. "Cover your hair." You know, I mean I didn't even cover my hair in Baghdad. This used to be a very, very secular society for women. Under Saddam people would wear miniskirts. And slowly as the new democratic government came into power, women have had to cover up more and more. We try to look like families. We'll put a woman in each car so that people are less likely to stop us. It's now a series of borders and boundaries. So I can't even send Mohammad or Sahad, who speak perfect Arabic, are from this country, are from this capitol, to every neighborhood in Baghdad. They can only go to 1 or 2 neightborhoods each, depending on their sect and where they're from. We just have to pick and choose what we can actually tell the truth about, you know. It might be that I know somebody in one specific neighborhood in Baghdad. I know that the army is pushing Sunnis out of that neighborhood. If this is what's happening here, what's happening in the rest of the capitol that I can't get to? So, we just shine a tiny light on whatever we can do. We're a much smaller press corp than we ever were. So, of course, there's less coverage of Iraq. For the biggest story in the world, the most important story for US foreign policy, and there's maybe 20, possibly 30, foreign journalists here right now. Because of the way I look and because of my interests, I do a lot more unilateral reporting. The few embeds I have gone on, you can feel that they try to guide you. They have a story to tell and they want to take you to the places that tell that story. So, I think they try to guide you, and you have to decide what you feel is truthful, and what you feel isn't. Sometimes I don't feel like a reporter here. I feel like I go to press conferences in the Green Zone, I listen to these people who I know don't know what's going on outside. Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria 203 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the start of fighting in Iraq in March 2003. 14 journalists have been kidnapped and two are considered missing. Covering the conflict in Iraq has been the bloodiest for the media since World War II. Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria A film by Rick Rowley, David Enders, David Rowley Produced by Big Noise Films Produced in association with Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria is produced by Azimuth Media For related articles, interviews and videos, visit: For more from Big Noise Films, visit

Video Details

Duration: 7 minutes and 31 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Big Noise Films
Director: David Enders and Rick Rowley
Views: 144
Posted by: pulitzercenter on Apr 25, 2008

As featured on Foreign Exchange. Working as a journalist in Iraq has never been harder. More than 200 media and media support staff, most of them Iraqis, have been killed since 2003. Dozens more have been kidnapped or arrested. Richard Rowley and David Enders took a look at the dangers of working as a journalist in Baghdad. For more information, visit

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