Jay Rosen at Pressthink, one of the best media-related blogs, has done what the American media so far refuses to do with Eason’s Fables — act like a reporter and try to get the story. Jay tracked down the BBC’s Richard Sambrook, who attended the Davos forum in question, and asked him what he remembered of Eason Jordan’s remarks. Sambrook replies, in part:
Eason’s comments were a reaction to a statement that journalists killed in Iraq amounted to “collateral damage”. His point was that many of these journalists (and indeed civilians) killed in Iraq were not accidental victims–as suggested by the terms “collateral damage”–but had been “targeted”, for example by snipers.
He clarified this comment to say he did not believe they were targeted because they were journalists, although there are others in the media community who do hold that view (personally, I don’t). They had been deliberately killed as individuals– perhaps because they were mistaken for insurgents, we don’t know. However the distinction he was seeking to make is that being shot by a sniper, or fired at directly is very different from being, for example, accidentally killed by an explosion.
Some in the audience, and Barney Frank on the panel, took him to mean US troops had deliberately set out to kill journalists. That is not what he meant or, in my view, said; and he clarified his comment a number of times to ensure people did not misunderstand him. However, they seem to have done so.
As I replied to Jay after his e-mail alerting me to this post, it’s good to get people who attended the conference on the record so we can determine what was said, in absence of the videotape and/or a transcript. Sambrook is, as far as I know, only the third such person to speak up. His recollection contradicts that of Rony Arbovitz and Rebecca MacKinnon, the latter of which spoke against her interests in confirming the thrust of Jordan’s remarks as reported by Arbovitz. Does that mean Sambrook is wrong, or lying? No, but it does put him in the minority of those speaking out, an admittedly very small pool of the witnesses. One would think that Rep. Barney Frank or Sen. Chris Dodd would have defended Jordan by this time, had his remarks more accurately reflected Sambrook’s recollection than those of Arbovitz and MacKinnon, however.
Not only that, but the singular focus on Davos ignores a track record by Jordan that tends to support Arbovitz and MacKinnon. In November 2004, remember, he told a News Xchange forum in Portugal that the US military captured and tortured journalists, again without any substantiation:
Eason Jordan, chief news executive at CNN, said there had been only a “limited amount of progress”, despite repeated meetings between news organisations and the US authorities.”
Actions speak louder than words. The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the US military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by US forces,” Mr Jordan told an audience of news executives at the News Xchange conference in Portugal.
Let’s also recall that CNN has never reported on this allegation, a strange development for a news agency whose chief executive alleges crimes which would constitute a blockbuster story. Jordan, apparently, saves up accusations about the US military for his overseas audiences. He does the same thing with accusations against the Israeli military, too, as I noted earlier.
Taken in full context, it’s hard to see how Jordan’s claims that the US military “targeted” journalists does not imply deliberation and purposeful action, rather than mistaken identity. In the first place, mistaken identity qualifies as collateral damage, the term to which Jordan objected, which Jordan should know full well. Second, if the US did kill journalists with rifle or explosive fire, it’s almost beyond doubt that the victims were “targeted” in the generic sense, as the Army and Marines don’t usually hit what they don’t aim at. To claim that Jordan just meant that Marines and soldiers were damned fine marksman is laughable.
However, at least Sambrook spoke up, something so many others appear loathe to do. Sambrook has plenty more to say, so be sure to read Jay’s full post and decide for yourselves. For my part, Jordan has many more answers to provide outside of his Davos commentary, and nothing I’ve seen so far even begins to explain any of it.