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Peter Arnett in Iraqi TV propaganda row

Julia Day
Monday March 31, 2003

Peter Arnett, the CNN reporting star of the 1991 Gulf war, has been accused of "kowtowing to the enemy" by a US Republican politician who has branded an interview by the reporter on Iraqi television as "nauseating".

Peter Arnett, who is based in Baghdad but who now works for NBC News and National Geographic Explorer, told Iraqi state TV on Sunday that his reporting about Iraqi civilian casualties "helps those who oppose the war".

The allied war plan, he said, "has failed because of Iraqi resistance".

The comments are likely to make Arnett a renewed target of Republican lawmakers, many of whom already contend that his reporting is slanted in favour of the Iraqis.

Iraqi TV showed the interview at least twice on Sunday afternoon. CNN and Fox News Channel showed excerpts of it last night.

Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told Fox News Channel she found the interview "nauseating."

She added, "It's incredible he would be kowtowing to what clearly is the enemy in this way."

However, NBC and National Geographic defended Arnett and praised him for risking his life to deliver news from Baghdad.

They said in a joint statement that Iraqi TV officials asked Arnett if he would grant an interview.

"Out of professional courtesy he answered their questions," the statement said. "He saw it as purely analysis."

Asked if they would allow their reporters to be interviewed by Iraqi television in the current climate, CNN and Fox News Channel said they would not, while CBS said it probably would not.

An ABC News spokesman would only say that its freelance correspondent in Baghdad, Richard Engel, is "out there getting interviews, not giving them".

Arnett was a CNN correspondent in Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf war and Iraqi officials have said Arnett had "proven impartiality".

The White House would make no comment.

In the interview, Arnett said American war planners had failed to pay attention to his reporting.

"In my commentaries on television I would tell the Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces, the determination of the government, and the willingness to fight for their country," he said.

Several network executives criticised Arnett for praising Iraqi officials for their cooperation with the news media. Iraq has ordered a number of journalists, including those from CNN and Fox News, to leave the country.

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11.02.2003: Murdoch backs 'courageous' Blair over Iraq © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003



For archives, these articles are being stored on website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.