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.