April 11, 2003
A search of CNN's site yields over 1,000 reports on Enron, Global Crossing and WorldCom scandals. While busy exposing these corporate accounting frauds, CNN was knowingly engaged in journalistic fraud. And the consequences were lethal.
In the New York Times, CNN's chief news executive, Eason Jordan, contributes a column which is clearly a cynical cover-your-ass ploy disguised as a tale of journalistic heroism.
A few excerpts from Jordan's column:
Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff ...
We also had to worry that our reporting might endanger Iraqis not on our payroll. I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting. After all, secret police thugs brutalized even senior officials of the Information Ministry, just to keep them in line (one such official has long been missing all his fingernails). Still, I felt I had a moral obligation to warn Jordan's monarch, and I did so the next day. King Hussein dismissed the threat as a madman's rant. A few months later Uday lured the brothers-in-law back to Baghdad; they were soon killed ...
I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely.
"At last"? Judging from that last paragraph, you'd think that Jordan worked for Saddam's state-controlled news service; in effect, he did. CNN kept mum about Saddam's atrocities not because reporting on them would have endangered lives (hell, people died because CNN refused to report the truth). CNN looked the other way for one very crass reason: to preserve its access to senior leaders in the Iraqi regime. As long as CNN didn't make waves by honestly reporting on Saddam's regime, Saddam and his goons let CNN hang around. This Faustian agreement was to CNN's liking for twelve years.
Now we know why Peter Arnett was such an enthusiastic fan of Saddam's regime. For Arnett and CNN's executives, having access to a genocidal tyrant and his accomplices was more important than reporting the truth.
CNN is, I think, the only American news network with a bureau in Cuba. Did CNN cut a similar deal with Darth Castro? And, if so, how many Cubans are dying because CNN feels a "moral obligation" not to "endanger" their lives?
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