In September 2007, the U.S. military embedded 219 journalists in Iraq. A year later that number dropped to just 39 journalists. Of the dozen major newspapers and Western media outlets that once maintained full-time bureaus in Baghdad, only four remain permanently staffed. As media funding and journalists are pulled from Iraq, concerns have been raised about the availability and accuracy of reports from inside Iraq.
“Stories about violence get top billing,” said General David G. Perkin, the top military spokesman in Iraq. “Less-sensational events, such as a recent voter-registration drive for the highly anticipated provincial elections expected early next year, go largely uncovered in the Western news media.”
But even the violent stories are difficult to come by these days. Due to military reluctance, journalists are increasingly blocked from reporting on the front lines.
America media that still maintain bureaus in Iraq include:
The Washington Post
New York Times
Los Angeles Times
National Public Radio
Foreign correspondents Ernesto Londoño and Amit Paley of the Washington Post report: “The U.S. military officials acknowledge that they are not eager to showcase American military-led combat operations at time when the Iraqi government is calling for a more limited role for U.S. troops and pushing firm withdrawal timelines.”
While many media outlets have left altogether, those remaining have been subject to downsizing. Baghdad Bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, Tina Susman, has witnessed her paper recently drop from three to two foreign correspondents.
“[It’s] dispiriting,” she said. “How do media bosses, especially the American ones, justify not maintaining a presence in a country where there are 145,000 U.S. forces and where 4,100 have died?”
Photo caption: Tina Susman of the Los Angeles Times Baghdad Bureau. From the Frontline.