A quick guide to journalism in Iraq

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By Paul Eedle

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Ever optimistic Iraqi Airways. They haven't flown internationally since 1990 and haven't flown inside Iraq since no-fly zones were imposed a few months after the Gulf War in 1991.

What's it like reporting from Baghdad? Do the secret police monitor your phone calls? Are you followed? Does the government tell you what to write?

It's not too bad. The Information Ministry helps as much as it obstructs, the secret police are probably there but don't get in the way, and people are extremely friendly to Westerners, which is pretty generous after eight years of sanctions that mean most families don't have enough to eat.

The biggest problem is probably Iraq's total lack of credibility in much of the outside world. At least as far as the West is concerned, this is the country that invaded Kuwait and has developed frightening chemical and biological weapons which it is hiding from UN inspectors. It's led by a dangerous dictator. They can't ever be in the right.

So if you report on a hospital where children are dying of lukaemia because they don't have chemotherapy drugs or starving because their parents can only afford enough food for two weeks out of four, the danger is that readers or viewers - and your editor - is quite likely to think you're being manipulated by the Iraqi government.

The UN is trying to counter the one-dimensional Western view of Iraq by publishing detailed factual reports on the suffering caused by sanctions, deliberately feeding out facts like the one that a million Iraqi children are suffering from malnutrition. It's conceivable that even the United States and Britain may be willing to contemplate some easing of sanctions - we'll see on 11 April when the next six-monthly report of the UNSCOM weapons inspectors is published.

Here's a quick guide to the realities of reporting in Baghdad:
 

IN DETAIL:

The government press centre

Drivers: your window on the world

Al-Rasheed Hotel: middle-aged men

Speaking Arabic: how far it gets you

Canal House: UN headquarters in Iraq

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 Sanctions
 Art and Escapism
 Hospitals
 Journalism
 Qadiris
 Chaldaeans
 Rich
 UNSCOM
 Uranium
 Oil
 At Ease