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Look at Complex and Sometimes Tense Relationship Between Press and Military

Aired October 27, 2006 - 14:00:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The headlines on CNN. Iran appears to have resumed sensitive nuclear activities, despite the threat of U.N. sanctions. Iran semi official news agency reporting Tehran has restarted uranium enrichment with a second network of centrifuges. The U.N. Security Council is working on draft resolution to impose limited sanctions on Iran. U.S. President George W. Bush reacting to the news just a short while ago.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It says to me that we must double our effort to work with the international community to persuade the Iranians that there is only isolation from the world if they continue working forward on such a program.

And I've read the speculation about that's what they may be doing. But whether they doubled it or not, the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. And it's unacceptable to the United States. And it's unacceptable to the nations we're working with in the United Nations to send a common message.


COLLEEN MCHEDWARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: U.S. military now says 24 Iraqis police officers were killed in fierce fighting in Baquba. It says 18 insurgents and one civilian were also killed in the clashes between insurgents and police. Thursday's fighting broke out after a police unit was ambushed.

CLANCY: A bomb blast killed 14 civilians in Uhizgan Province in southern Afghanistan. Days earlier, in neighboring Kandahar Province, dozens of civilians were reportedly killed in NATO airstrikes.

The violence coming as NATO Secretary General meets with the U.S. president to discuss the alliance's stepped up role in fighting Taliban insurgents.

MCHEDWARD: Germany has suspended two soldiers from duty in Afghanistan in connection with graphic photos showing the two desecrating a skull. Germany's Defense Minister says he hopes the photos will not endanger the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. A new batch of photos aired on German television on Thursday.

CLANCY: In Australia, a controversial Muslim cleric volunteered to stop giving sermons for two to three months, after making some controversial comments. Sheikh Taj al Deen al Gallaly compared women who don't wear head scarves to uncovered meat, in his words, who invite sexual assault. Al Gallaly apologized, but says he has no plans to step down.

MCHEDWARD: And those are the latest headlines here on CNN. I'm Colleen McHedward.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Becky Anderson at the Frontline Press Club in London. Welcome to INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS here on CNN, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories of the moment.

Well, this week, the contentious issue of military embeds. And what happens when the media is denied access to frontline troops. Plus, later in the show, the president's platform. Vladimir Putin takes over Russian TV for his annual phone in. And what did that reveal? And defining images. Please take a look around a gallery of Reuters best photojournalism.

But we begin this week with the complex and sometimes tense relationship between the press and the military. This week, both CNN and the British Broadcaster ITN faced the prospect of a ban on embedding the forces in war zones.

Now the issue raises concerns over censorship, as well as what kind of responsibility the media should feel towards the military. In the United States, a number of lawmakers wrote to the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, pressing that CNN reporters who are embedded with U.S. soldiers be removed from those positions.

Now that follows this network's decision to broadcast an interview and sniper videotape shot by a leading Iraqi insurgent group.


DUNCAN HUNTER, U.S. LAWMAKER: CNN is a world observer. And they're watching what they view to be a football game between one side and another side. They don't see the insurgents as the enemy. They don't see our soldiers as our friends. They see this as a - as something to be covered to sell commercials.


ANDERSON: Meanwhile, in Britain, the Ministry of Defense suspended embed cooperation with ITN after lodging a complaint over a series of reports on the conditions for returning Iraq veterans.

Well, to discuss this further, I'm joined by the former Chief of ITN, Stuart Purvis, the veteran war correspondent Patrick Cockburn, and former Special Forces Officer and Security consultant Andrew Kain. His firm trains CNN and other media firms in Iraq. And he has extensive embed experience.

Stuart, I want to start with you. We've had this statement from the MOD, who we did ask to appear on this show. They said that the discussions with ITN are private, and both we and the broadcaster hope to resolve the issues at hand as soon as possible and continue with our normal business.

Your reaction to the news that effectively embeds from ITN are no longer welcome?

STUART PURVIS, FORMER ITN CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Well, I think it's not unusual for the military and the media to fall out. I mean, after all, they have got completely different jobs to do.

The question is what's going to happen when they do fall out? And what you've here got is, frankly, what can only be interpreted as a bully boy tactic by the military.

The military, indeed like everybody in Britain, if they don't like something a broadcaster says, has the right to go to an independent regulator and complain about it. Extraordinary thing is in Britain is that the official bodies are that people who use these processes leaked. And yet, they're the people who put them in place.

So if they didn't like what ITN said about the way the veterans are being treated, they should have gone through the process. If they won the outcome, they were perfectly free, I think, to take a sanction.

What they've done is to try and impose a sanction immediately, before they've even completed their negotiations and discussions with ITN.

ANDERSON: Let's talk about the embedding program as a whole. Patrick, do you think this is an effective of covering of this story? And is withdrawing access effective censorship, do you think, at this point?

PATRICK COCKBURN, THE INDEPENDENT: Of course, it's censorship, yes. I mean, Iraq is so dangerous. And Afghanistan, parts of Afghanistan as well, that you can't do it fully without being embedded.

I'm normally embedded myself. I try and do it from the Iraqi point of view. But there's no doubt it is very dangerous. But it is censorship.

But it's become clear that basically, the British and American governments don't want to hear this - the bad news. I used to go to the green zone Baghdad, talk to the military officers and diplomats. And they'd all say you're exaggerating how bad it is. I'd say, well, come and talk to me in my hotel. And they said, no, no, no, far too dangerous. Can't do that.

ANDERSON: So we're effectively suggesting here that there are tensions between the military and the media. Andy, what sort of tensions have you observed? And do you think as the story gets worse, those tensions are heightened?

ANDREW KAIN, SECURITY CONSULTANT: I think as the story gets worse, it's inevitable that tensions will be heightened. The military have a genuine concern for - potential for irresponsible journalism, which could cost lives.

But in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, I don't think that's the case. Certainly our people, the experience that they have is a very positive one with the soldiers on the ground. And the interaction between the journalists and them is very positive.

ANDERSON: Let's talk about the embedding program. I mean, you don't send a security guy with every CNN correspondent, or indeed those other organizations that you work for. What do you? What's their role? What's the role of the embedded journalists and indeed their security detail?

PURVIS: It's to sort of act as an interface between the military to bridge the understanding between what a journalist requires, and what is necessary for the military in an embedding process.

So it..


ANDERSON: .reporters, TV crews and photojournalists linked with the U.S. and British military, Stuart, is or has been reduced significantly since the beginning of the war? Something like 600 journalists at the beginning of the war in 2003. About 114 were embedded about a year ago.

Is that because there is less interest in the story? Or is that because there is less access to the embedding programs as this gets - as this moves on?

COCKBURN: Well, it's a bit of both. But of course, the big factor is (INAUDIBLE) is the sheer danger of going either embedded or independently as he has done.

And you know, there are large organizations, media organizations, that simply don't go to Iraq at all nowadays. And that's, you know, that's - this is an extraordinary situation. I can't remember that happening before in a conflict of this kind. So obviously that affects the numbers.

If you take Afghanistan, which is a slightly different situation, where there is genuine British media interest in going to Afghanistan, and going and finding out what exactly are British troops doing in Afghanistan, you'll find the Ministry of Defense is not enthusiastic about that.

Politically at the - the politicians at the top of the Ministry of Defense really do not want this covered. And it's interesting that some of the best video recently was actually shot by soldiers and released to a broadcast, because they want the story to come out of what they're doing.

But the British government is embarrassed that it's not quite the way they sold it to the British public. So they don't really like having British embeds there.

ANDERSON: Patrick, one reporter who was embedded with U.S. units four times since the beginning of the war, describes the program as broken. And he says that the military and editors are to blame. Do you buy into that?

COCKBURN: Well, I've found with embedding that people, I think, are really good reporters tend to produce really good reports. And those who are less good, less good reports.

I mean, good things can come out of it. But it's a very - it's very limiting. You only get the soldiers really some point of view. I mean, in - I remember the battle of Fallujah in November 2004 was a victory for the U.S. Marines. Heavily covered by embedded correspondents.

At the same time, much larger city, Mosul, was mostly captured by the insurgents. There was nobody embedded. Nobody knew about it.

So it was a very distorted view that people watching television or newspapers got from embedded correspondents.

ANDERSON: I'm wondering, Andy, whether you believe that you would rather have correspondents that you are there effectively to protect embedded with the military, because you think that's a safer place to be than providing security for journalists on what are called unilateral assignments in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

KAIN: No, not necessarily. I mean, it's a different dynamic for journalists being embedded. They are a lot of dangers associated with them, because by dint of being embedded, they have become a target.

Now that's not to say as working as unilaterals, they're not targets. But it's a very different environment.

Afghanistan and Iraq are incredibly difficult to operate as unilaterals. And so there is more emphasis on being embedded.

But it is a necessary process. Without it, you effectively are moving towards a news free environment, which is not in anyone's interests.

ANDERSON: News free environment, interesting, Stuart.

PURVIS: Yes, I mean, I studied quite a lot about, you know, in the run up to the 2003 war, what was in the minds of the American military as they planned the kind of media arrangements. And you come across phrases like total spectrum dominance and controlling information in the battle space.

And you could somehow understand from a military point of view, here they are. They've got total control of their own communications. They're listening into the enemy communications. And there are these people wandering around in the middle of the battlefield, communicating all over the place. Who knows what they're communicating?

So I think the military mind basically wants a bit of stop to that stuff. And the media wants to carry on. And there's the conflict.

ANDERSON: Patrick?

COCKBURN: Yes, I mean, there's bound to be this conflict. And there should be this conflict, because the business of the media or as The Independent or CNN or ITN is to get news. And you pass it on to the public. You don't sit there and judge it.

ANDERSON: Stuart, you've been around a long time. You've been a news executive through a number of times when the embedding program has been around. Can you see it lasting, going forward?

PURVIS: Yes, I think it's lasted at least 100 years. And I think it'll probably last another 100 years. And I don't actually have a problem with the fact that there's a sort of deal there, which there's - the military's saying, and I mean the BBC are embedded with the Taliban this week. So I mean, it tells you, you know, what can happen.

The question is, you know, will you be able to have people who are not embedded going out? That's the issue. That's the issue, I think, came out of the inquest we had here in Britain into the death of the ITN reporter Terry Lloyd, the sense that - the fact that he was a unilateral, an independent journalist actually worked - not contributed to his death, necessarily, but may have been a factor.

I mean, that's the worrying thing. So in a sense, what I think the media wants is for embedding with the terms being completely clear to continue. But also, for independent reporting to continue.

ANDERSON: We have run out of time. We thank you very much for joining us, Andy, Stuart, and Patrick,

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, a dialogue with the people or a staged stunt? We discuss the Russian president's televised phone in. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Welcome back to INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS here on CNN from the Frontline Press Club in London.

Now it is say carefully choreographed annual event. And a rare channel for a leader to speak to his people. This week, Russian TV gave live blanket coverage to President Putin's three hour phone in, which saw a dozen cities provided with a direct video link, making it possible to ask questions.

Now the Kremlin has long been accused of curtailing press freedoms. And while critics claimed all questions were hand picked prior to the event, the president did address a number of controversial subjects.

He warned against backing North Korea into a corner, and said he would continue to exert influence after his term expires in 2008 under the constitution.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Even after I no longer have presidential powers, I think that without tailoring the constitution to suit my personal tastes, I will be able to preserve the most important thing that is dear to any politician - world trust.


ANDERSON: Well, to discuss this further, I'm joined now by Dariya Pushkova, who's a journalist at Russia Today. That's the satellite channel owned by a Russian state news agency. And Lord Peter Truscott, a biographer of the Russian president. We thank you both very much indeed for joining us.

Peter, what did we learn about Putin's relationship with the media through this state managed press conference, as it were, that he gave the other day?

PETER TRUSCOTT, AUTHOR, "PUTIN'S PROGRESS": Well, I think he's becoming quite a dab hand at the sort of set piece media exchanges with the population of Russia. It's almost an annual event.

But of course, it's very well choreographed. I mean, there are a million questions submitted. And clearly, certain questions were selected for him to respond to.

But nevertheless, I think some of his answers were quite revealing, really, on his future or the whole thing about how to negotiate with North Korea, relations with Georgia.

So despite the fact that it is pretty heavily stage managed, we did actually learn some quite interesting things.

ANDERSON: The Kremlin, Dariya, has long been accused of curtailing press freedoms. You ran Putin's speech, press conference, whatever you want to call it at length through an organization that has been set up effectively by the state. Did it feel uncomfortable for you that this speech was given blanket coverage, and that the media effectively just towed the line?

DARIYA PUSHKOVA, RUSSIA TODAY: Well, my feeling is that say in the `90s, there was a total anarchy and (INAUDIBLE) inside Russia. All the media were sort of reflecting personal interests of their owners.

And I don't see anything bad if the media is giving more attention to the national interests. And that is what Putin is doing at the moment. He's actually looking at Russia's national interests, and he's trying to solve the problems inside the country.

Now there's a lot of attention in the West, say to the opposition in Russia. But for your average Russian who lives somewhere very far from Moscow, and has a lot of problems to deal with like, I don't know, pensions, security issues, they're not concerned about Iran. They're concerned about their own life.

And if there is a president who wants to bring more stability to the country, they're ready to believe him and to follow him.

ANDERSON: What do you think Putin's view of the media really is, Peter?

TRUSCOTT: I think - well, in his early period, I think he was very wary of it because there was the whole issue of the accursed nuclear submarine going down in August 2000. He was quite hammered by the media.

And again, important parts of the media were controlled by oligarchs, who were politically hostile to him as well. And I think the lesson he took from that is that he needed to have a greater influence over the media, perhaps even control.

And I think he learned the lesson from that. And since that time, a number of the oligarchs who owned chunks of the media have either gone into exile, or effectively been bought out.

So now, the Kremlin has a much stronger control of its news management process. And Putin is aware of that and has been behind it, I think.

ANDERSON: The questions in this three hour phone in, it's reported, were hand picked. How do you think this phone in went down? And do you perceive a time any time soon when there will be a phone in when the questions aren't hand picked supposedly?

TRUSCOTT: Well, I mean, I think in terms of how it was perceived, I mean, I think if it's well received by the Russian people, since, you know, they put a million questions in. So I think that in terms of the population, I think it was received well.

Whether the Kremlin is yet ready to stand back and say, OK, we'll just give this free reign. We'll let people ask whatever they want, I think in a way, they need to relax a bit.

I mean, there is still this sense that they need to go in for overkill, over total control of the management of the - of news. And I think, really, they need to loosen up a bit. And that's the lesson of this thing.

PUSHKOVA: Well, I mean, common sense really tells you, you can't control it. You just can't control it. So it's impossible.

ANDERSON: So you hand pick the questions in a phone in like that. I mean, you can hand pick the questions. I'm wondering whether you think we're anywhere close to a time when Putin will be prepared to address his audience through the state media without it being choreographed all the time?

PUSHKOVA: Are we talking about George W. Bush going on air for a phone in like this, without knowing what he's going to talk about? I hardly see such a situation. I'm sure he's going to be ready to answer certain questions. And those questions, whether they've been put into somebody's mouth, or whether they were as you say hand picked or written down, they will be - he will be ready to answer them.

It's going in the direction when Putin is going to go - that's, you know, that's what he states constantly whether he's going to come back in, I don't know, 2012 or not, that's another question. But we are talking about a country which is in transition. It does take a lot more time.

And even for the United States, it took more than 100 years to overcome racial problems and segregation. So why is everybody expecting Russia to cope with those problems like this?

ANDERSON: Dariya, Peter, we thank you very much indeed.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, the state of the world according to Reuters. We take a look at some powerful images that chronicle the 21st century so far. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS here on CNN.

Now the century is not yet a decade old, but already we've witnessed events that have shocked and moved the world. Award winning Reuters photojournalists have captured some of the most dramatic moments of the new millennium.

And 500 of those images are now in a book called "The State of the World." To mark the launch of that, there is an exhibition being held in London to showcase some of those images. And we got a chance to look around the photojournalist Dylan Martinez and the head of Media at Reuters, Monique Villa.


ANDERSON: Talk to me about the concept behind this, if you will?

MONIQUE VILLA, REUTERS MEDIA: The concept was we wanted to make this very special book this time. And we thought why not make a book about the 21st century?

So what is a good picture in our view? A good picture is a picture which tells a story, which strikes you, stops you, and you want to understand better. And you want to go into it.

And I think it is also the meaning of the cover we have chosen. And the cover we have chosen for this book, which is this one, it is this little girl. She goes - it's just after the assassination of (INAUDIBLE).

So it's three things. It's east and west. She is from Lebanon. But she's wearing a scarf, which has a little Barbie on it.

ANDERSON: Globalization.

VILLA: So it's globalization in its biggest way.

What is real interesting is that we have done this book immediately in seven languages with seven different publishers. And these seven different publishers all have chosen the same front page.

ANDERSON: Same cover.

VILLA: Independently.

ANDERSON: As a photographer, you effectively bear witness, don't you, to these momentous events around the world? It's quite a privilege.

DYLAN MARTINEZ, REUTERS PHOTOJOURNALIST: Yes, I'm very, very lucky, I think. We've been incredibly lucky to - and sometimes quite distressing as obviously some pictures like this is not the place you may want to be.

But he's Arco Data (ph), who's from India and sort of basically photography what's happened on his doorstep, which was the tsunami.

So I think 1,000 - I mean, hundred photographers, thousands of pictures are taken of the tsunami, but this one became the iconic image, really.

As with Arco's (ph) picture, Guran Masovich (ph) has managed to focus in on one person. I mean, you don't see the scale of what's happened, in a way, you just see that this man probably has his whole belongings, maybe his whole life are inside the suitcase.

ANDERSON: You have traveled all over the world.


ANDERSON: And you've seen some of the most momentous events. And yet, the photo that's exhibited here is one that you took in London.

MARTINEZ: I know. It's strange, isn't it? Well, I mean, obviously, I live here. So for me, it was nice that it's actually a picture from London, and a picture that I feel very close to.

ANDERSON: This, of course, was July the 7th in London at the bombings here. The vigil held a week later.

MARTINEZ: I personally wanted to show how individual people had been affected by it, and how especially a Muslim woman, when there was quite a bit of backlash already, even only a week later against the Muslims, and she was there with Londoners. And there was a quiet coming together. And I think people felt proud or felt united in their grief.

ANDERSON: We live in a world of 24/7 live TV. Many people in the past have said that the art of photography will die in this new world that we live in. And yet when you look at these photos, you realize just how important the art still is.

MARTINEZ: Yes. You've got - not only have you got the coffin of John Paul II, but this incredible book, the way it's leafing open, it just - it says so many things. And everyone's a red Catholic. Obviously, they're just fantastic colors and the shapes of their hats.

TV and so much of it is 24 hours. And it's continuing. And the general life of it has - it starts in the morning. And by the evening, you want to be doing something else.

The picture was taken in a sort of a lunchtime. I think the picture was taken in - and then bang, it's front page of the next day. And then two years later, we're looking at it in an exhibition. And you're thinking - and it's still with us. And it still reminds us of the time.


ANDERSON: Well, that is it for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, but do tune in again next week, when we take a look at how the media are covering the big issues of the moment.

I'm Becky Anderson in London. Good-bye.



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