[Media-watch] Journalists bunker down in Baghdad - Daily Telegraph au - 15/04/2004

Julie-ann Davies jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Apr 14 22:02:19 BST 2004

>From Australia's Daily Telegraph


Journalists bunker down in Baghdad

>From correspondents in Paris

April 15, 2004

MANY foreign correspondents in Iraq are restricting themselves to Baghdad
hotel rooms or are leaving the country because of the risk of being
kidnapped or killed, media organisations said today.

The capture of at least five journalists - three Czech, one French and one
Japanese - among dozens of foreign hostages seized by Iraqi insurgents in
the past days has prompted extra caution.
"No story is worth dying for", said a spokesman for the German weekly Der

Agence France-Presse, which has about a dozen text and photo journalists in
Iraq, has decided not to withdraw any of its staff, but has urged the
greatest caution.

"AFP is maintaining its presence in Iraq, but we are limiting the movements
of our correspondents on the ground. The safety of our staff is an absolute
priority," AFP editor-in-chief Eric Wishart said.

Reuters, the London-based international news agency, said it had around 40
people covering news in Baghdad, include TV crews and local employees.

That number was not being reduced so far, "but whenever there is combat,
everyone has to wear a flak jacket ... the standing procedure is, any sign
of trouble, return to base or to a safe place", said the agency's managing
editor responsible for the region, Michael Lawrence.

He said there were two unarmed security advisers who went with the teams,
and armed local guards protecting the agency's Baghdad bureau, which was
standard procedure for many companies in Iraq.

The US newspaper the Wall Street Journal said on Monday no major US news
organisations were pulling out of Iraq, but many US reporters were staying

"This is about as dangerous a situation as I've ever encountered," it quoted
Paul Slavin, senior vice president at ABC News, as saying.

"Right now it is out of control. If it does stay out of control, we will
have a huge problem in how we cover this story."

As a result of the worsening security on the ground, many reporters are
relying on Iraqi freelance journalists to gather information and television

Even though a French TV journalist captured on Sunday, Alexandre Jordanov,
was freed on Wednesday, French media said they would exercise greater
caution even if most did not plan to recall journalists.

The editorial chief of the French radio station RTL, Jacques Esnoux, said,
however, that the freelancer they had used in Iraq decided to return last

"There is too much risk. There's a limit you don't go over," he said.

Italian television teams are particularly on their guard after a top aide to
the militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr declared an outlaw by US officials was
briefly arrested by soldiers immediately after giving them an interview.

"Locally, that was seen as a trap, and in that climate our correspondents
... have been cooped up in their hotel since Tuesday morning, which is very
frustrating for them," said Luca Rigoni, the foreign editor of Italy's
commercial television company Mediaset.

Some Spanish media bosses said they were thinking about pulling
correspondents out of Baghdad, but in the meantime the journalists were
being advised to move about only with other colleagues.

Directors of Austrian media employing an experienced war journalist,
Friedrich Orter, for their coverage said "the situation is being looked at
daily" and he was free to leave any time he felt it was too dangerous.

A German journalist working for the television networks N24, Pro7, SAT1,
Kabel 1 was staying put, though she was not moving far from her hotel.

Countries giving strong support to the occupation, such as Britain and
Poland, have many journalists in Iraq and for the moment they were either
remaining or being rotated.

Britain's Guardian newspaper said a correspondent was returning to London
tomorrow but that had been planned well in advance, and a freelance local
journalist was staying on in Baghdad.

The Daily Telegraph said its two British journalists would stay in Baghdad
"unless there was good reason" but they had to get authorisation from London
before making any trips.

A dozen Polish journalists were remaining in Iraq under the protection of
Polish troops deployed south of Baghdad, said Polish military spokesman
Colonel Zdzislaw Gnatowski.

"If they make outside trips, it's only in our military convoys," he said.


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