CNN Reporter Targeted By Israelis? Hardly!

In October 2002, Eason Jordan claimed that the Israeli Defensive Forces had shot a CNN reporter as part of a deliberate strategy of targeting journalists covering the war in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (see post below). I did a little searching on Nexis again, confident that had CNN reporters taken fire in the line of duty, CNN would report it. I conducted a search for ‘CNN reporter shot’ (non-exclusive), and I got only five hits, all of which reported the same incident, which occurred on October 31, 2000.
According to CNN’s own coverage of the incident and their own eyewitness to the event, Eason Jordan lied about it during the October 2002 conference:

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Violence in the Middle East has been increasing over the past few days. The death toll is rising.
At least, 151 people have been killed in the clashes, and today the CNN family was directly hit. Correspondent Ben Wedeman was shot just hours ago as he was covering the clashes between Palestinians and Israelis.
Ben is being treated at a hospital in Gaza City. His producer, Bruce Conover, joins us by phone now from Shifa (ph) Hospital.
Bruce, thanks for joining us.
BRUCE CONOVER, CNN PRODUCER: Hi, Daryn. Well, Ben’s fine. He’s conscious. He’s making jokes. So we’re feeling a lot better about his condition right now.
KAGAN: So he’s going to be OK.
CONOVER: He’s going to be OK, yes.
KAGAN: Can you tell us what happened?
CONOVER: He — we had Ben and a cameraman, Dave Albritten (ph), coming in as a new team. They’ve been here a few times before. But obviously, you need to bring people up to speed on the locations, where these clashes have been taking place.
So we decided to go to a place that is called the Karni Junction. It’s basically a commercial trade center across the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, where literally trucks with Israeli license plates unload into trucks with Palestinian plates so that there are no vehicles crossing the border.
That location was — became a point of fairly nasty clashes two days ago when there were heavy machine guns in use. The Israeli army said that they were fired upon from Palestinian positions. During the period that we were there, we did not hear any return fire until the very last moment.
But today, it turned violent very quickly. We got there, and literally, a huge firefight broke out. We were — there were four of us there. We were literally pinned to the ground a minute and a half after getting out of the car. And we were pinned down — Ben and cameraman Mohammed (ph) were a little bit ahead. They were in a grove of olive trees, and we saw an Israeli tank shelling and moving the shells — walking the shells toward the olive grove. It became very clear that it was critical that they get out of there. Mohammed yelled to Ben to get out. They were in the process of trying to move when Ben was hit by something. We’re still not sure exactly what.
But he was hit. He went down. Mohammed got out of there. Ben was lying on the ground. And in sort of an ironic testimonial to high technology, we, completely pinned down, used our cell phones to call Ben to find out whether he was hit, and in fact, he said, yes, I’m hit, at which point there were several ambulances that were — had been called by bystanders to the area.
But it was a very nasty firefight, with shelling, probably an exchange of gunfire. It’s hard to tell from which side, but there was definitely a lot of stuff coming across. And to make a long story a little bit shorter, it came out of nowhere.
This location, we’ve been there the day before, absolutely calm, or I should say relatively calm, the normal clashes: Israeli forces using rubber bullets, Palestinians throwing rocks. That’s sort of encompassing the norm.

So what happened? CNN’s reporter went to an area where clashes were known to occur; a reasonable action for a reporter to take. Usually the clashes didn’t amount to anything particularly intense. On this occasion, however, a full-scale battle with real bullets erupted, and Wedeman got caught in the crossfire. No one knows who shot him — after all, CNN didn’t follow up the report according to Nexis — and his bullet was just as likely to have come from a Palestinian gun as an IDF gun. More to the point, no one “targeted” Wedeman for assassination. Someone may have mistaken him as a combatant, but it’s much more likely that he simply got stuck in the wrong place in a battlefield.
With reporting like this coming from the chief of CNN, how can we trust anything his underlings tell us?
UPDATE: Glenn corrected my English in the intro — and I used to be a technical writer/editor whose job it was to catch that stuff. Dang — writing on a lunch break will do that to a guy! But if I get to hear from Glenn, it’s worth it.

Jordan: Not Just The Americans

Eason Jordan appears to like spreading the slander around when it comes to accusations of assassination attempts by Western military forces. CQ reader and blogger Peter Cook found this forum transcript from News Xchange 2002, where Jordan makes the same accusations — with the same lack of specifics — against the Israelis:

NG: Eason, why do you think you’ve been targeted specifically, I mean there are Israeli bumper stickers that say ‘CNN lies’, the Israeli communications minister talked about CNN as being ‘evil, biased and unbalanced’ you’ll be familiar with all these quotes?
EJ: Absolutely, well the Israeli government is making a mistake if it considers CNN the enemy, CNN is just trying to tell the story of Israel, the story of Palestinian areas in a straightforward way. We’re not trying to favour one side over the other we’re not going to pull any punches in our reporting but the truth hurts sometimes and it hurts both sides but it’s a mistake to target the news media. We’ve had enormous frustrations in having access to occupied areas of the West Bank and Israeli forces on a number of occasions have shot at CNN personnel and in fact did shoot one CNN correspondent, he was badly wounded. The Israelis say they’re actually trying to restrict our access to these areas and they say it’s too dangerous for you to be there and my response to that is that it wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous if you didn’t shoot at us when we’re clearly labelled as CNN crews and journalists. And so this must stop, this targeting of the news media both literally and figuratively must come to an end immediately.

Who got shot? When and where did this happen? Jordan doesn’t say. Again, if CNN has evidence that the Israelis target journalists for assassination, why haven’t they reported the story? And if they don’t have any proof of Jordan’s allegations, why does he toss them around so carelessly? Either Jordan is a raging paranoid or has political reasons for his allegations. Given his past, I’d lean more towards the latter.
Having a man at the top of a major news organization engaging in this kind of conduct destroys the credibility of the entire organization. Perhaps we in the blogosphere have been slow to check Eason Jordan, but we’re conscious of the problem now and we will continue to push this story as long as the mainstream news media continues to ignore it. If Jordan has proof of these multiple accusations, let’s see it. If not, Time Warner should fire him immediately.
UPDATE: CNN has released a statement via e-mail to those who have written in (hat tip: TKS):

Many blogs have taken Mr. Jordan’s remarks out of context. Eason Jordan does not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists. Mr. Jordan simply pointed out the facts: While the majority of journalists killed in Iraq have been slain at the hands of insurgents, the Pentagon has also noted that the U.S. military on occasion has killed people who turned out to be journalists. The Pentagon has apologized for those actions.
Mr. Jordan was responding to an assertion by Cong. Frank that all 63 journalist victims had been the result of “collateral damage.”

First off, it’s interesting to note that CNN responded to blogs here, not just readers or viewers. But it hardly answers the question of what actually was said. It sounds like Jordan disagreed with the notion that all 63 journalists were killed as a result of collateral damage. So what did Jordan claim as the cause?
Better yet, why did Eason Jordan accuse the Israelis of the exact same thing — targeted assassinations — without providing any specifics or evidence? This release means nothing except a quick attempt to avoid a blogswarm. Nice try, but no cigar, pals.

More Background On Jordan’s Folly

I’ve done more Nexis searching myself and found more background on Eason Jordan and the journalist-targeting issue. To say that this may be Jordan’s favorite talking point is an understatement; I’m beginning to believe that no one has written a major article on the subject without his input. This article comes from the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, published on March 1, 2004 as a straight news item as compared to his Media Notes column. Under the headline “For Reporters in Iraq, Security Gets Personal,” Kurtz reported:

There is a long tradition in the news business that journalists, like Red Cross workers, should be seen as unaligned observers with no weapons or agenda. That tradition is being sorely tested, journalists say, in Iraq, where insurgents routinely *target* Americans in shootings and bombings in an effort to undermine the occupying force. …
Safety is a constant topic of discussion. Several news organizations
have asked the U.S. civilian authority for copies of the daily security updates provided to Western contractors, but the request has not been granted. Others have tried putting curtains in the back of their cars to hide the identities of those inside.
“It’s a very dangerous place,” said Eason Jordan, CNN executive vice president. “It’s more dangerous for people who appear to be Westerners and most dangerous for television people, because they cannot operate in as low a profile way as print journalists.”

Interestingly, another source tells Kurtz that all this targeting over which Jordan frets may be self-inflicted:

Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the hiring of armed guards can “jeopardize the perception” of journalists as “neutral observers.” At a conference in Budapest last fall, she said, European journalists, who generally avoid guns, accused American news organizations of endangering them all by employing armed security in Iraq.
“It’s a very hot issue right now,” Cooper said. “If you hire armed
guards and they get into a gun battle and kill some civilians, how is
that going to feel? Is that justifiable? The fundamental question is: Is it simply too dangerous for our journalists to continue being there?”

Openly carrying weapons in a battle zone does tend to attract the notice of all sides in a war and could explain some of the phenomena of which Jordan complains. I think if I went to Iraq to get into the field for some reporting, I wouldn’t mind having a couple of heavily-armed bestest buddies alongside me, plus a flak jacket or two. But again, that’s part of the nature of modern warfare. For better or worse, wars are not fought by two armies marching across a plain at each other and forming squares, like in the days of Napoleon. Especially in this war, combatants dress in mufti, which results in non-combatant casualties — another reason not to afford unlawful combatants the Geneva POW conventions.
I’ll have more in a few minutes about another group that Jordan has accused of targeting journalists.

Targeting A Consistent Theme For Eason Jordan

CQ reader and new blogger The Baron spent a few shillings out of his own pocket for a Nexis article on Eason Jordan research, and as we dig more and more into Jordan’s public record, the more we find that Jordan seems obsessed with journalist-targeting. The Baron finds an article from USA Today by Marilyn Greene that ran on page 3 of their 10/5/93 edition. Greene wrote about the lack of reporters in strife-torn Mogadishu, and interviewed Jordan as well as the Toronto Star’s Paul Watson. Watson accuses US troops of shooting at him, while Jordan excuses the lack of CNN correspondents in the region to journalist-targeting by combatants:

When U.S. troops landed in Somalia, they were met on the beach by a horde of TV cameras and reporters. When U.S. helicopters were downed Sunday in Somalia, not a single U.S. reporter was in Mogadishu to record the event.
In the 10 months between the arrival and the latest bloodshed, every U.S. media outlet – even ever-present CNN – has pulled out of Mogadishu.
Why? The biggest reason: Reporters and camera crews became targets of
Somalis’ outrage about the hunt for warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
Five journalists have been killed and dozens wounded.
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been shot at by both Somalis and U.S. troops,” says Paul Watson, correspondent for the Toronto Star, from south Mogadishu. He took dramatic photographs of Somalis dragging the body of a U.S. soldier along Mogadishu’s streets. …
In contrast, CNN has 60 people covering this week’s fighting in Moscow.
“It’s dangerous, but there’s a big difference,” Jordan says. “In Somalia, journalists are targeted. Anything that happens in Moscow is incidental.”

Note that Jordan doesn’t specifically mention who he thinks does the targeting, but that statement along with Watson’s quote leaves the impression that Jordan thinks that all sides target journalists. That may be more Greene’s fault than Jordan’s, of course; she doesn’t appear to have asked Jordan to elaborate on Watson’s allegations. Nor does Watson specifically allege that US troops targeted him as a journalist, or even aimed at him specifically at all.
However, when covering a war, bullets fly all over the place. No one would expect differently, and indeed Jordan continued to have dozens of reporters in the field in Moscow while the shooting went on. The act of pulling reporters out shows that Jordan believed them to have become targets. By whom? Jordan doesn’t say, but based on his comments in Davos, you have to wonder if he hadn’t meant to accuse the Americans as well as the Somalis all along.

Eason Jordan Should Know Better

CQ reader John J. passes along two interesting reports about Eason Jordan’s personal connection to a journalist that actually was targeted and assassinated in the Middle East. The London Telegraph did a human-interest profile on the widow of Danny Pearl, whose capture and beheading by Islamists in Pakistan first showed the world the bigotry, inhumanity, and bloodthirsty nature of the Islamofascist thugs arrayed against the West. The Telegraph updated its readers on the renaissance of Marianne Pearl in October 2004:

It was an extraordinary way to lose a husband – butchered in Pakistan by kidnappers who revelled in their own inhumanity, who filmed their deeds in order to heighten the shock to Western sensibilities. But Mariane is an extraordinary woman. Instead of curling into a shell, as she is convinced Daniel’s assassins hoped she would, she has turned her life into a straightforward declaration of intent: “Terrorists may have destroyed my husband, but they will not have the satisfaction of destroying me.” …
She is 37, but looks younger. As part of not allowing herself to be crushed, she refused to play the quietly grieving widow. After a series of e-mail exchanges and a meeting in Paris, she fell in love again, with Eason Jordan, a CNN executive [emphasis mine — CE].

That report confirms a New York Daily News blurb about the pair published six months earlier. For a man who’s dating the widow of a truly targeted and assassinated reporter, Jordan’s latest accusations appear even more morally bankrupt than before. Jordan’s allegations that the US military targets and assassinated journalists amount to little more than an “everyone is doing it” sort of moral equivalency, the kind Danny Pearl death demonstrates beyond all doubt is false. It diminishes the death of Pearl by Jordan’s claims purportedly showing that it was nothing out of the ordinary. Marianne Pearl can obviously fend for herself, but Jordan’s comments look like an extraordinary betrayal of her dead husband’s legacy, and a diminishment of her gutsy determination to enjoy life despite the singular brutality of Pearl’s death.
Eason Jordan seems to be, in the parlance of older times, a creep.