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News ::
31 Mar 2003
Modified: 01:05:38 PM
NBC FIRES speech not allowed in USA
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full article from the Boston Globe (english)
31 Mar 2003
NBC severs its ties with journalist Peter Arnett after interview with state-run Iraqi TV
By David Bauder, Associated Press, 3/31/2003 09:04

NEW YORK (AP) NBC fired journalist Peter Arnett on Monday, saying it was wrong for him to give an interview with state-run Iraqi TV in which he said the American-led coalition's initial plan for the war had failed because of Iraq's resistance. Arnett called the interview a ''misjudgment'' and apologized.

Arnett, on NBC's ''Today'' show on Monday, said he was sorry for his statement but added ''I said over the weekend what we all know about the war.''

''I want to apologize to the American people for clearly making a misjudgment,'' the New Zealand-born Arnett said. He said he would try to leave Baghdad now, joking ''there's a small island in the South Pacific that I've inhabited that I'll try to swim to.''

NBC defended him Sunday, saying he had given the interview as a professional courtesy and that his remarks were analytical in nature. But by Monday morning the network switched course and, after Arnett spoke with NBC News President Neal Shapiro, said it would no longer work with Arnett.

''It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war,'' NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust said. ''And it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview.''

Arnett, who won a Pulitzer Prize reporting in Vietnam for The Associated Press, gained much of his prominence from covering the 1991 Gulf War for CNN. One of the few American television reporters left in Baghdad, his reports were frequently aired on NBC and its cable sisters, MSNBC and CNBC.

Leaving a second network under a cloud may mark the end of his TV career. Arnett was the on-air reporter of the 1998 CNN report that accused American forces of using sarin nerve gas on a Laotian village in 1970 to kill U.S. defectors. Two CNN employees were sacked and Arnett was reprimanded over the report, which the station later retracted. Arnett left the network when his contract was not renewed.

In the Iraqi TV interview, broadcast Sunday by Iraq's satellite television station and monitored by The Associated Press in Egypt, Arnett said his Iraqi friends tell him there is a growing sense of nationalism and resistance to what the United States and Britain are doing.

He said the United States is reappraising the battlefield and delaying the war, maybe for a week, ''and rewriting the war plan. The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan.''

''Clearly, the American war plans misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces,'' Arnett said.

Arnett said it is clear that within the United States there is growing opposition to the war and a growing challenge to President Bush about the war's conduct.

''Our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States,'' he said. ''It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments.''

At a briefing Sunday in Qatar, Gen. Tommy Franks ticked off major achievements of the war campaign, including the advance of troops to within 60 miles of Baghdad. But he found himself answering questions about whether he had enough troops to do the job and denying that coalition forces were stalled.

A Republican congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, told Fox News Channel on Sunday that Arnett's remarks were ''Kafkaesque'' and ''just crazy.''

''Let's hope that he's being coerced,'' Ros-Lehtinen said.

The first Bush administration was unhappy with Arnett's reporting on the Gulf War in 1991 for CNN, suggesting he had become a conveyor of propaganda. ARnett was denounced for reporting that the allies had bombed a baby milk factory in Baghdad when the military said it was a biological weapons plant.

Arnett went to Iraq this year not as an NBC News reporter but as an employee of the MSNBC show ''National Geographic Explorer.'' When other NBC reporters left Baghdad for safety reasons, the network began airing his reports. NBC said Monday he wouldn't be reporting for ''National Geographic Explorer,'' either.

The Iraqi TV interview was broadcast in English and translated by a uniformed Iraqi anchor. NBC said Arnett gave the interview when asked shortly after he attended an Iraqi government briefing.

In the April 5 issue of TV Guide, Arnett said he felt he had found redemption reporting on the current war.

''I was furious with (CNN founder) Ted Turner and (then-CNN chairman) Tom Johnson when they threw me to the wolves after I made them billions risking my life to cover the first Gulf War,'' Arnett told TV Guide.

''Now (Turner and Johnson) are gone, the Iraqis have thrown the CNN crew out of Baghdad, and I'm still here,'' he said. ''Any satisfaction in that? Ha, ha, ha, ha.''

He said the Iraqis allowed him to stay in Baghdad because they respect him and ''see me as a fellow warrior.''
A good example of media bias (english)
31 Mar 2003
This is how 'media bias' works. Peter Arnett says something that too heavily contradicts the message that the media wants to push (in this case, the message is that the war on Iraq will be easy because Saddam is evil and all the Iraqi people hate him and want the US to get rid of him). Rather than discuss whether or not what he said is true, he gets stuck with a nasty label (in this case, anti-American). The discussion focuses on how bad it was for Arnett to say these things and what should be done to him, which makes it look like Arnett is in the wrong while dodging a discussion on the topic. This serves to discourage people from even considering Arnett's point of view (its 'anti-american', and who wants to be thought of as 'anti-american'), and also makes sure no other reporter says anything that backs up what Arnett said, for fear that they will get the same treatment that he did. This not only happens to media figures, but politicians, such as the recent bashings of Jim Moran and Trent Lott.
See also:
National Geographic as well - I Cancelled (english)
31 Mar 2003
The article I read said National Geographic severed ties to Peter Arnett as well.

One of the few things an individual can do is vote with your money. I think corporations take immediate reaction to avoid any negative controversy. If we can show that his firing will generate more immedate negative reaction through subscription cancellations than his comments did, they may think twice in the future. I'm sure a survey of National Geographic subscribers would be decidedly pro peace. If everyone who was outraged by this cancelled, it would cause a significant sales blip.

I have subscribed to National Geographic for many years - but no longer. Cancellation was easy - see info below and they refund any amount due. It can be done toll free and you don't need your account number (they can look you up with zip and last name). Please suggest that others do the same both now and in the future.

National Geographic
Membership and Subscription Services
If you have a question about your subscription or membership, or if you
would like to e-mail us, visit the membership service section.

Or you can call (+1 800 647 5463)
Toll free from U.S., Canada
8 a.m.-midnight ET, Mon.-Fri.
8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. ET, Sat.

FOR A FREE CATALOG CALL: +1 800 447 0647

Special device for the hearing-impaired (TDD)
+1 800 548 9797
Letter to NBC (english)
31 Mar 2003
I'm pasting below a letter to NBC regarding the dismissal of Arnett. At the top of the email you'll find contact information for NBC and Nat'l Geographic Explorer, as well as the email for NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust, who made to announcement. I encourage all supporters of free press to write to NBC and let them know how you feel... for all the good it will do.

If you really want to get nuts, let GE know you're on to them:

TO: Natgeoexplorer (at),Nightly (at),countdown (at); Allison.gollust (at)
SUBJECT: journalist Peter Arnett

Dear NBC:

I am disturbed by reports that you fired award-winning journalist Peter Arnett for performing his duties with zeal and dedication. Arnett's Pulitzer-winning reporting in Vietnam established him in the eyes of the world as a purveyor of fair and equal reporting--something that NBC seems to have lost interest in.

Perhaps the most unsettling detail in this sordid affair is Allison Gollust's statement to the press regarding Arnett's dismissal: "It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war, and it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview." At least a portion of your viewing public is intelligent enough to realize that your reporters have opinions, and those opinions are filtered through the greater corporate interests of your parent company, General Electric, before some semblance of the truth reaches us. The difference in Arnett's case is not that he voiced an opinion, but that it wasn't the conservative opinion your station favors. Or perhaps, as indicated in your initial defense of Arnett, you bowed to public pressure in the form of Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Fortunately, the majority of Americans are unwilling to relinquish their First Amendment rights as easily as NBC. You may have tired of freedom of the press, but we have not. When you make clear, through overt actions like this one, that you favor censorship over controversy, we turn to your competitors, and to independent media.

Jean Powers
Boston, MA