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Truth & Lies in Bagdad

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Most PBS stations Thursday night will feature an acerbic report by Sam Kiley on Iraq (check local listings). I wasn’t planning on writing about Frontline/World again since I did an item last week. But Kiley’s report is both funny and informative. Although Iraqi officials deny reports from exiles of women accused of being prostitutes killed by beheading on busy streets, he is able to find an eyewitness.

And the other story on Columbia is excellent. In one town 400 people have been assasinated by right-wing paramilitaries (including prostitutes – the chief of police says most are girlfriends of the rebels). One women has had six family members killed or disapeared. The website has a photo essay on civilian deaths (which also include people caught in the crossfire and accused by the rebels of supporting the paramilitaries).

As with all the Frontline/World stories, they will be streaming online Monday and there is also be other online material including an interview with Kiley and a report on the media in Iraq. He also will be participating in an online discussion Friday at 11 am ET at washingtonpost.com.

Kiley was a reporter for the Times of London for over 11 years covering Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East before quiting over censorship of his reporting on Israel.

He now reports for the Evening Standard and filed several stories while he was working on the Frontline report.

Saira Shah did the documentary on Afghanistan Beneath the Veil (she wrote about making it and Janelle Brown interviewed her) which was shown last year on Channel 4 and CNN.

Both talk in their reports about the difficulty of doing war reporting. Chris Hedges explores this in his new book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.
He read from it on the Connection, was interviewed on FreshAir and Tom Paine. He was one of the few reporters to break the military press restrictions during the Gulf War and go off on his own (he was captured by the Iraqis). Last year, he wrote Gaza Diary for Harper’s (and was interviewed about it on FreshAir).

While Kiley’s report might give fodder to those who want to go to war with Iraq, Hedges said on FreshAir and on Charlie Rose last night that his sources are urging caution. And there is this exchange in the interview with Kiley:

Q: When you go into a situation like Iraq are you thinking about the consequences of your reporting? This is a time when the United States and the United Nations are debating war and peace. You’ve brought us back a very provocative story with some new horrors, public beheadings…

Kiley: I have very strong reservations about the whole American foreign policy in the Middle East. You know, I’m not interested in feeding a war machine. But one can’t pull one’s punches just because you think that wrong-headed people are going to use your information. I have mixed views about whether or not it’s a good idea [to invade Iraq]. Yes, it would be great for the people of Iraq to get rid of Saddam. It’d also be nice to have democracy in Saudi Arabia…But in a sense that¹s not my problem. My problem is to try and do justice to the story.

In the interview, he praises John Burns of the New York Times for including in every piece that he is always accompanied by an Iraqi minder. Burns was interviewed on Fresh Air Wednesday.

And for people in the Bay area:

In collaboration with FRONTLINE/World, International House at UC
Berkeley and South Asian film organization 3rd I — will be providing global
citizens an opportunity to further explore the stories we have
uncovered. Attend these upcoming events to speak with FRONTLINE/World producers and to hear first-hand from people who have experienced the places and issues we examine.

Berkeley, CA
Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.
UC Berkeley International House presents “FRONTLINE Takes on the World: FRONTLINE/World Screening and Town Meeting with Series Editor Stephen Talbot.” info: (510) 642-9460

San Francisco, CA
Nov. 17, 2 p.m.
3rd I presents “From the Frontline: Stories from South Asia” featuring
FRONTLINE/World correspondent Joe Rubin and FRONTLINE/World Executive in Charge for FRONTLINE, Sharon Tiller. Info: (415) 553-2857

All events are free and open to the public. Visit
www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/interact/events.html for details about these events.

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