Tuesday, June 14, 2005

1132 Battlefield Access

It's not hard to get access in Iraq writes Michael Yon.

"A journalist not wishing to embed with US forces is free to apply for an Iraqi visa, fly to Baghdad, and hire a car and an interpreter who can drive them around town. They can knock on doors and talk directly with people; visit hospitals, talk with doctors; stop by the side of the road and talk with shepherds; or even hang out in a village and help make the goat cheese. Iraqi people are generally polite and usually more than willing to offer opinions about what's happening in their neighborhood.

Of course, the major problem with eschewing a close military presence is the enemy's proclivity to kidnap and behead journalists whose reports portray insurgents in a negative or violent way. This puts ethical journalists in a tight spot where they have the freedom to roam but not to report the truth; whereas journalists who embed with US forces often report very negatively. I recall the stories of one magazine writer in Baquba who spent days looking for disgruntled soldiers—of course she found them—and wrote negatively. The same writer came to Mosul. The soldiers may not like people who do this, but they certainly will not behead them. Whether reporters elect to travel with the military or to go it alone, the fact is that any journalist who wants battlefield access will find it in Iraq."

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