Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Media Critics Blast Iraq War Coverage

* Pacific Media Watch Online - check the website for archive and links:

* Post a comment on PMWs' Right of Reply:


AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Two media critics have strongly criticised New Zealand and some global media coverage of the Anglo-American war on Iraq - especially television - describing it as biased and "failing spectacularly" to do its job.

The attacks came in two separate seminars in Wellington by Scoop editor Alastair Thompson ("The Role Of Media In The Second Gulf War") and in Auckland by Auckland University of Technology senior journalism lecturer David Robie on World Press Freedom Day.

Scoop website was the only main news organisation in New Zealand to carry extensive images of the American prisoners of war and also Iraqi civilian casualties.

"What was quickly pointed out in the independent media was that the [United States] concern over the legality of POW images was entirely one-way," said Thompson in the Wellington speech.

"No similar concerns over the Geneva Convention were raised concerning the Guantanamo Bay captives [US prisoners from Afghanistan taken to Cuba], who the Pentagon issued pictures of trussed up like turkeys, nor had any concern been shown about the screening of pictures of surrendering Iraqis.

"What was abundantly clear from the incident was the level of sensitivity that the Pentagon's media minders had over unfavourable war images. They didn't want any.

"And once bitten by [Defence Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld's dogs, the US media proved remarkably shy on the image front for the rest of the war. Meanwhile, all around the world US owned subsidiaries and other publications acting as imitators thereof played ball too, largely keeping the reality of war, the decapitations, the dead civilians and charred soldier corpses invisible to the Western public."

The "clean-sanitised view of war" was not followed in the Arab media and this probably went a long way towards explaining why it was al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV offices that were bombed in Baghdad on April 8.

"To sanitise the reality of warfare is abhorrent to those serving the public interest," Thompson said.

"To censor images of capture, of death, as a consequence of war, is wrong. If Scoop were to do so, it would be subscribing to the glitzy rah rah top-gun Hollywood-façade-style of reportage that the mainstream United States based media has become obsessed with."

Thompson said the media's role in a democratic society was to provide the public with an informed basis upon which they could exercise their democratic rights. And nothing changed during wartime.

"When measured by this standard I would conclude that the media both here in New Zealand and everywhere else in the Western World ­ with the exception of the internet ­ has failed spectacularly to do its job," he said.

Thompson based much of his criticism on the fact that NZ's media mostly republished and rebroadcast news from satellite and news wire feeds from what were almost exclusively US and UK news sources.

A notable exception had been Radio New Zealand and the Listener magazine.

David Robie, speaking at a seminar at Auckland University called "Justified War?" with politics professor Steve Hoadley and a Kurdish law lecturer, contrasted the number of staff correspondents covering the war from New Zealand with Australia.

Only three New Zealand journalists - all television - covered the war.

"The bias and editorialising of much of the NZ media coverage, relying heavily as it did on news sources, satellite feeds and wire agencies from Anglo-American protagonists, was quite significant," Robie said.

"Why is it that when journalists who generally respect the ethical norms of balance, fairness and impartiality during "normal times" are happy to jump on the bandwagon of jingoism and suspend their critical faculties during war? And New Zealand, unlike Australia, was not even at war.

"Rarely did we get reports of the 'other side' of the story ­ reports from Arabic satellite channels such as al-Jazeera, the independent academic analysis, or even insightful reporting on the Iraqi community in New Zealand."

Like Thompson, Robie cited many specific examples of the alleged bias. He also cited other media critics such as David Miller, John Pilger and Robert Fisk.

The debate followed other recent critical seminars on media coverage at Auckland University and Auckland University of Technology, and a critical commentary on Radio New Zealand's Mediawatch



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

(c)1996-2003 Copyright - All rights reserved.

Items are provided solely for review purposes as a non-profit educational service. Copyright remains the property of the original producers as indicated. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright owner for any publishing. Copyright owners not wishing their materials to be posted by PMW please contact us. The views expressed in material listed by PMW are not necessarily the views of PMW or its members.

Recipients should rely on their own inquiries before making decisions based on material listed in PMW. Please copy appeals to PMW and acknowledge source.

For further information, inquiries about joining the Pacific Media Watch

listserve, articles for publication, and giving feedback contact Pacific

Media Watch at: E-mail: Fax: (+679) 30 5779 or (+612) 9660 1804 Mail: PO Box 9, Annandale, NSW 2038, Australia or, PO Box 78028, Auckland 1002, New Zealand. New website:

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: In A New York Groove

Right now, there’s a thing about downtown Manhattan in the 1970s and ‘80s, a lot of talk about an era that still resonates powerfully. Plenty of people in this city, still walking around and breathing in and out, were very involved in the world below 14th Street. More>>


Keith Ng On Public Address: Why The Police And The PM Are Wrong About Rawshark

On 2 October 2014, the Police raided Nicky Hager’s home... During the search, they found a piece of paper... “We considered [the document] was of interest to the investigation because of information we had already obtained”. That piece of paper was seized and designated NH025... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Being Accountable, And Holding The Powerful To Account

Don’t know how you feel about it, but the selective unavailability of Ministers and senior public servants to media scrutiny seems to be a growing concern... Yet often and tellingly, they’re not so beyond-radio-contact that they can’t find time to authorise and email a statement unilaterally stating their position. Which indicates that it is the questioning of the party line that they’re choosing to avoid. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Islam And The Paris Attacks

Presidential contender Ben Carson for instance, wants it to be made illegal for a Muslim to be elected as President of the USA. For the Republican Party at least, freedom of religion in America extends only to tolerating many ways of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour. In reality of course, treating Islamic State as the essence of Islam makes about as much sense as treating the Ku Klux Klan as the essence of Christianity... More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news