USS Clueless - Paris Match unmatched

Stardate 20031127.1052

(On Screen): A couple of days ago, a cargo jet belonging to DHL was struck by a SAM near Baghdad. It was able to land safely, but DHL has suspended flights into that area. (Actually, I was surprised that there were commercial flights at all.)

Now it turns out that two French reporters were with the Iraqi insurgents who fired that missile. One of them photographed it all. The photos are going to be published in Paris Match:

The images were taken by one of the magazine's photographers, Jerome Sessini, who was with the attackers - described in the accompanying article as "Iraqi guerrillas" -- at the time of Saturday's missile strike, editor-in-chief Alain Genestar told AFP Wednesday.

He said Sessini and a special correspondent sent to Iraq, Claudine Verniez-Palliez, had been with the group for several days beforehand and were unaware they were about to witness the attack.

"They had been asked to come see caches of arms very close to Baghdad and didn't discover the real reason for the operation until the last minute," Genestar said.

The pictures, seen in an advance copy of the Thursday edition of the magazine, show a group of men wearing scarves over the heads and faces brandishing grenade launchers, and one man holding then firing a shoulder-launched missile, said in the article to be one of two Russian-made "Strella" SA-7 surface-to-air units.

In the article, Verniez-Palliez writes the rebels thought they had spotted a US military plane and the leader gave the order to fire.

But Genestar rejected accusations that his magazine could be seen to be sympathising with the Iraqi rebels.

"We don't make the perpetrators of this act to be heroes," he said, adding the correspondent and photographer had been brought back to France "for safety reasons".

Nonetheless, one has to ask why they were even willing to go see caches of arms very close to Baghdad.

One has to ask why the insurgents were willing to invite them, and willing to trust them. Think about it: what would prevent the reporters from cooperating with the US government in trying to find/kill the insurgents in that group? Certainly that's what would have happened if they'd extended a similar invitation to Fox News, and I doubt they even considered calling any American (or British) news organization.

On the other end of the spectrum, there seems to have been ongoing cooperation between the insurgency and al Jazeera, going well beyond "reporting", and because of that al Jazeera has now been booted out of Iraq.

So on the "sympathizing with the US" to "sympathizing with the rebels" scale, with Fox News at one end and al Jazeera at the other, where does Paris Match land? Apparently the insurgents think it's far enough over on the "rebels" side to be willing to risk inviting their reporters to join one of their units for several days, to watch an attack against an American jet, to take photographs of the attack, and to leave with those photographs. That demonstrates quite clearly where the insurgents think Paris Match lands on that scale. And Paris Match's behavior seems to be justifying the insurgents' confidence in them.

Think what kinds of things they must have seen during the time they spent with the insurgents. Think what American counter-insurgency intelligence could learn from them. Think they'll actually get to? I don't.

Someone there, probably one of the insurgents, also made a videotape of the attack, and a copy of that videotape was purportedly given to a reporter working for Le Nouvel Observateur, who in turn gave copies to AFP and CNN. Taking her at her word that she knew nothing about it until the tape mysteriously showed up in her hotel room, that means the insurgents only trusted her enough to believe that she would not destroy the tape. And even if she did destroy the tape, the insurgents were not risking much by leaving it for her. That's not really the same.

Jerome Sessini and Claudine Verniez-Palliez were actually with the insurgent unit at the time the missile was fired, and Sessini photographed the attack.

It's "news". It's also exclusive. But what kinds of compromises are reporters willing to make in order to gather news, especially exclusives? Can a reporter truly stand outside of events, be totally non-partisan, uninvolved? Does a reporter have any loyalty or duty or ethical obligation beyond observing and reporting the news? Can any reporter stand by passively and watch someone try to kill someone else, without making any attempt at all to interfere? Does becoming a reporter mean ceasing to be a human? Or does it depend on who the intended victim is?

Is Paris Match "uninvolved" because the insurgents were trying to kill Americans? Would they be just as non-partisan if the targets had been French?

One has to wonder what Paris Match would have done if their reporters had been invited to Africa to visit an insurgent group fighting against French forces. Would they have passively watched an attack which might have killed French pilots? Would Pari

Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004