Media Activists Impact Iraq Coverage

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Posted by andreas from ( on Tuesday, October 08, 2002 at 3:18AM :


Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism


Media Activists Impact Iraq Coverage

October 7, 2002

Activists contacting major media outlets regarding their coverage of Iraq
seem to be having an impact on the coverage of this timely issue.

On September 30, FAIR issued an action alert documenting the limited
coverage of a major anti-war demonstration in London. The demonstration
merited only passing mentions in the Washington Post and New York Times,
so hundreds of activists contacted the papers to ask about this news
judgment. On October 6, Post ombudsman Michael Getler, while not
mentioning FAIR by name, agreed with the activists' concerns. Getler

Last Saturday, antiwar rallies involving some 200,000 people in London and
thousands more in Rome took place and nothing ran in the Sunday Post about
them. On Monday, The Post's London correspondent produced an informative,
front-page article surveying broad European concerns about U.S. policies,
with references to the rallies. A picture of the protesters in London
accompanied the story. Nevertheless, the failure to report the news of the
rallies when they occurred produced complaints from readers and an
organized e-mail campaign assailing the paper for this lapse.

I'm in agreement with the readers on these complaints. Whatever one thinks
about the wisdom of a new war, once it starts it is too late to air
arguments that should have been aired before.

The Post was not the only outlet that seemed to respond to recent FAIR
alerts. On September 24, FAIR challenged the New York Times, Washington
Post and Boston Globe over their shifting coverage of the UNSCOM arms
inspectors in Iraq being used as spies. As FAIR noted, these papers broke
the story of the UNSCOM spying in 1998, citing U.S. officials; lately,
however, the papers have shifted to referring to the spying as
"allegations" leveled by Saddam Hussein.

On October 2, 2002, a Times story about Iraq included this reference to
the inspections team: "The reform followed the disclosure that a United
States spy on the United Nations team had planted an electronic
eavesdropping device in Baghdad that helped guide allied bombing in
December 1998."

A similar change was seen at USA Today, the subject of a FAIR action alert
on August 12. The paper repeated the notion that the U.N. inspectors were
"expelled" from Iraq in 1998, when in fact they were withdrawn by
inspections chief Richard Butler. Subsequent reporting in the paper has
been more accurate, like an October 2 report that explained that the "U.N.
weapons inspectors left in 1998 amid a dispute over access to suspected
weapons sites."

These stories show that media activism can have an impact. The very same
errors are still being circulated in numerous mainstream media outlets,
and anti-war demonstrations continue to be undercovered. FAIR encourages
activists to communicate with news outlets when they see such problems.

See FAIR's media contact list at .


FAIR produces CounterSpin, a weekly radio show heard on over 130 stations in the U.S. and Canada. To find the CounterSpin station nearest you, visit .

FAIR's INTERNSHIP PROGRAM: FAIR accepts internship applications for its New York office on a rolling basis. For more information, see:

Feel free to respond to FAIR ( ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your email correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to .

-- andreas
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