Saturday, April 28, 2007

We are now in the firing line, sadly

By Robert Fisk

"When did the sands run out for us journalists? When did the moment of immunity pass away? When we took to wearing flak jackets or donned military costumes in the 1990 Gulf War? In Bosnia? In the cancerous, repetitive use of "terrorism, terrorism, terrorism" in our news reports? In Iraq, as we stood in our gated hotels, behind our watchtowers and bodyguards? When we grew used to what Martin Bell calls the "two palm trees", the Monty Python-like shrubbery that stands as a back-lot to almost every BBC report from the roof of its Baghdad office?.....

And so it has come to pass. We cannot move in most of Iraq for fear of being butchered by our countries' enemies. We cannot move in southern Afghanistan. Italian journalists might be ransomed by their governments. Afghan journalists - I am thinking of the reporter/translator of the Italian who was kidnapped - simply have their heads chopped off. Never has reporting been so circumscribed by these terrors. Never have we been so poorly informed......

Well, one reason is because this is not the Second World War. Nor is it - Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara, please note - World War Three. We are illegally fighting wars across the Middle East, supporting occupation and - by our frivolous support for the most objectionable governments - killing tens of thousands of innocents.

As journalists we can oppose this. We can raise our voices against these great injustices. But only if we are free. Yes, of course, I add my voice to those demanding the release of Alan Johnston. His imprisonment is a disaster for the Palestinians and for all the Arabs of the Middle East. And as long as he is held, how can we cover the atrocities of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Gaza?"

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