Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, March 28, 2003

Authenticity of Reports Shadowed by Smoke of Gun Powder

As audiences across the world are bombarded by round-the-clock reports on the latest developments of the Iraq war, more and more people are concerned with the authenticity of reports and freedom of the press.


As audiences across the world are bombarded by round-the-clock reports on the latest developments of the Iraq war, more and more people are concerned with the authenticity of reports and freedom of the press.

The Guardian published Thursday an article by Gary Younge, saying "Democracy is under threat in the United States; anyone who objects to the conflict in Iraq is not allowed to say so."

Another report by the British newspaper pointed out that since the live television images broadcast by some US and British news channels failed to provide a just and through view of the Iraq war,the Qatar-based news channel al-Jazeera has increased its European customers by twofold in several days.

A report by the EFE news agency said Tuesday that US television channels cautiously select the reports on the Iraq war, and therefore, the latest information on war developments broadcast inthe United States are quite different from those in other countries.

Al-Jazeera on Wednesday voiced serious concern over the endangered freedom of the press after two of its reporters had been banned from the New York Stock Exchange.

The stock exchange stopped al-Jazeera broadcasts on Tuesday, saying the Arab news channel failed to provide "responsible" coverage.

"There has to be a national effort to protect the freedom of the press even more," al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said. "We appeal to authorities to pay attention to this."

In response to al-Jazeera's appeal for full protection of free press, US Secretary of State Colin Powell argued in an interview with National Public Radio on Wednesday that the news channel's reports "magnify the minor successes of the (Iraqi) regime" and "tend to portray our efforts in a negative light."

There are also complaints about the US army's stiff restrictions on journalists' access to information.

The Qatar-based US army headquarters ruled that journalists are not allowed to ask the US and British casualties and are also forbidden to raise questions about current military operations and future military plans.

The United States and Iraq did not only exchange fire in the battle fields, but also traded barbs on the screen of television, leaving viewers in confusion from time to time.

Speaking at a press conference held on Monday in Baghdad, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz said all members of the Iraqi leadership were "in good shape" in spite of the "decapitation attack" by the US-led forces designed to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his key aids.

On March 20, the US forces launched a sudden air strike on some selected targets in Baghdad, 90 minutes after the expiry of the deadline set by US President George W. Bush for Saddam to leave the country or face war.

Some western media reported that Saddam and his two sons were killed in the decapitation strike. However, Saddam, wearing black-rim glasses and dressed in uniform, appeared on Iraqi television shortly after the air strike and delivered a speech to the Iraqi people.

In the following days, Iraqi television showed the leader chairing several meetings with high-level officials and delivering another national speech, although some US officials suspected the Saddam was a fake or the images were filmed beforehand.

Aziz told reporters that Saddam was still "in full control of the army and the country."

He also dismissed the reports that the US-led forces have captured Nasiriya, 375 km southeast of Baghdad, as reported by theUS and British side.

Last Friday, some western media quoted US defense officials as saying that the commander of the Iraqi regular army's 51st Division and about 8,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered to US Marines and British troops advancing through the desert toward Baghdad in southern Iraq.

However, Iraqi Information Ministry rebutted the report, stating the 51st division was still in fierce fighting with the US-led forces.

Major-General Khalid Hashimi, commander of the Iraqi 51st division, even appeared on the Baghdad TV on Sunday, rebuffing the rumors that he had been captured by the US-led coalition forces as claimed by the Pentagon.

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