The war in Iraq is arguably the most significant news story of our time; a relentless show of bloody violence that has dragged on for six years and claimed thousands of civilians’ and foreigners’ lives. Unfortunately, it is perhaps the most underreported war at least in certain inside story aspects due to the danger that its bloody violence poses on journalists. It is not easy to be a news reporter in Iraq. While many of them make a valiant attempt to penetrate the most dangerous turfs and report the real story, only a few of them manage- and live to tell the tale.
As the war progresses, foreigners –majority of who are journalists- have increasingly become the prime target of the militia. For years, Iraq has been ranked by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the deadliest place for the media to work in worldwide- and the figures are telling. As of 2007, a total of 133 media support workers and journalists had lost their lives; 83% of them locals who were linked to the Western media. Fast forward to 2009 and the figures are likely to be higher than that.
The most disturbing fact about these deaths is that the journalists are not hapless victims caught in a cross fire but are actually the targets of these attacks. While some journalists, especially those embedded in the US and British armies are killed in combat, murder remains the leading cause of death for journalists in Iraq (Ricchiardi, 2007). Cockburn (2007) has noted that due to the difficulty faced by journalists in unearthing and reporting the real story, it is easy for politicians to say anything they want, usually to their advantage and get away with it since the truth cannot be established.
This is very frustrating for journalists since they cannot verify the real situation on the ground without risking their lives; essentially they cannot do their work. The main reason why journalists have become the prime targets is because they are regarded as spies out to collect information for the enemy camp. Unfortunately, the nature of the journalism trade requires them to actually be in the field where the crossfire is taking place and to constantly expose themselves to danger in an attempt to get an inside story.
Thus they have been felled by bullets, roadside bombs, rockets or they have been kidnapped for ransom. Some of those kidnapped have ended up being beheaded. Undoubtedly, urgent steps have to be taken to protect the lives of journalists. Some media houses have taken great lengths to protect their correspondents by offering them tight security while on the ground but even then, it is not a guarantee that they are fully protected and an ambush is always lurking somewhere.
Thus other media companies have pulled out altogether with some opting to use local correspondents who stand a slightly better chance of security than their foreign counterparts (Cockburn, 2007). The Iraqi war started in earnest and for months on end dominated the newsrooms as dramatic events such as the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein unfolded. However, even the most sensational story loses its luster with time and the Iraq war is no exception.
Having dragged on for years and with no end in sight, it slowly slipped into oblivion as journalists tired of reporting the same old bloody story and the public grew numb to the coverage. A study by the Project of Excellence in Journalism reveals falling Iraq news coverage, 24% to 1%, by cable networks. Print media have also reduced coverage, from 457 stories related to Iraq as of September 2007 to 49 as of March 2008. Clearly, interest in the Iraq coverage seems to be declining.
This has been attributed to several factor such as the danger faced by journalists in Iraq, declining budgets in the face of high maintenance costs for Iraq correspondents, competing stories and war fatigue (Ricchiardi, 2008). Personally, I tired of following the Iraq war coverage quite a while back. This is because there is nothing new. Day in day out, we listen to the same old bloody story and sadly, we have become used to it. With no end in sight, I have had found myself letting go of the Iraq war and shifting focus to other events. Maybe it is time for the U. S government and its army to do the same.