Media and authority: Timeline

"A partnership between the military and the media has changed the nature of war journalism," states the website of the American TV network, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

    The fate of Saddam Hussein has been the talk of the Iraqi media

    But much more has changed since "embedded journalism" was used in the American-Anglo war on Iraq, starting 19 March 2003. Since then, journalists and TV networks themselves became a target; the news of the war intermingled with disturbing reports of killed, wounded or deported media personnel.

    Even before the fall of Baghdad on 9 April, the relationship between independent media and authority was marred with discord.

    The dysfunctional relationship carries on unchanged. Some media outlets were accused of exercising hidden agendas and contributing to the instability of Iraq.


    The media in turn have repeatedly called on authorities in charge to respect the freedom of the press and grant them a badly needed space.

    The following timeline is an attempt to summarise major events that defined the mostly turbulent relationship between media and authority in Iraq, displayed throughout the war and succeeding occupation of the Arab country:

    February 2003: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) concludes in its study, The Iraqi Media: 25 Years of Relentless Repression, that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his son Uday "have turned what was once one of the most vibrant presses in the Middle East into an instrument of propaganda".

    9 March 2003: Iraqi authorities expel from Baghdad Canadian journalist Scott Taylor for allegedly spying for Israel.

    17 March 2003: Two major US TV networks, NBC and ABC order their journalists to leave Baghdad in anticipation of now an imminent war on Iraq.

    21 March 2003: Iraqi authorities expel four CNN reporters stationed in Baghdad.

    25 March 2003: Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says US is sparing Iraqi TV studios because of the human shield around them.

    28 March 2003: US Secretary of State Colin Powell accuses Aljazeera TV channel, during an interview with National Public Radio, of lacking objectivity in its war coverage.

    28 March 2003: Pentagon orders Christian Science Monitor newspaper stringer Philip Smucker to leave Iraq for allegedly revealing the position of a US army unit during interview with CNN.

    29 March 2003: Iraq's Information Ministry hit by US Tomahawk missiles.

    31 March 2003: NBC and National Geographic war correspondent in Iraq Peter Arnett is fired for stating on Iraqi TV that the US war plan has "failed".

    2 April 2003: Los Angles Times fires a photographer for doctoring a photo. Brian Walski used his computer to merge two separate shots with an end result showing a British soldier helping Iraqi civilians.

    3 April 2003: British MP Christopher Chope demands BBC to pull out its reporters from Baghdad, accusing British media of playing into Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hands.

    4 April 2003: Iraq's Information Ministry overturns a decision banning two Aljazeera journalists from reporting from Iraq.

    7 April 2003: French daily Le Monde reports many of the 20,000 or so transistor radios distributed by British soldiers in southern Iraq are set to receive only Voice of the Two Rivers, a US-British "propaganda" station.

    7 April 2003: Polish TV station TVN24 announces that two of its journalists have been arrested by Iraqi authorities.

    8 April 2003: Aljazeera’s Baghdad correspondent Tariq Ayoub is killed in a US bombing of the Aljazeera TV office in the Iraqi capital.

    8 April 2003: Reuters' cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Spanish television colleague Jose Couso are killed when a US tank shell slams into the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.

    8 April 2003: Arab satellite station Abu Dhabi TV is hit by US army fire in a bloody day for journalists in Iraq.

    9 April 2003: Spain urges its journalists to leave Iraq after the death of two Spanish media personnel in two days.

    9 April 2003: Aljazeera mulls pulling out of Iraq after death of Baghdad correspondent.

    10 April 2003: US and Britain announce the launching of an Arabic-language TV channel aimed at the Iraqi public called Nahwa Al-Hurrieh (Toward Freedom).

    16 April 2003: Reports are published on arrests by Kurdish police in northern Iraq of two men accused of being Iraqi intelligence agents planning to stage an attack on CNN journalists.

    19 April 2003: Pro-US Voice of New Iraq radio commences a live broadcast in Arabic from Baghdad International Airport.

    25 April 2003: Arab-language newspaper Al-Ittihad of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is distributed for the first time in "liberated Baghdad".

    13 May 2003: Widow of Aljazeera correspondent Tariq Ayoub files a complaint in the federal court in Brussels alleging war crimes. The complaint, filed in connection with Belgium's universal jurisdiction law, accuses US military commander General Tommy Franks and other persons of war crimes.

    10 June 2003: Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) issues order number 14 which outlines prohibited media activity in Iraq under occupation. It states:

    "Where any media activity poses an imminent threat to the security of the coalition forces or CPA personnel, or a significant and immediate threat to public order, the commander of coalition forces may take direct action to prevent or defeat the threat."

    17 June 2003: US Defence Department's chief spokesperson says Pentagon is happy with the outcome of embedding hundreds of journalists with US military units, adding that people appreciated the embedding and would like to do it again.

    Journalists take pictures of a copy 

    of the Iraqi interim constitution

    27 July 2003: US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz claims in a televised interview that Aljazeera is inciting violence, connected to foreign governments.

    28 July 2003: Aljazeera demands an apology from Wolfowitz, who earlier accused the Arab satellite network of inciting violence.

    August 2003: US army report concludes, American forces acted "in an appropriate manner" when they fired into Palestine Hotel.

    17 August 2003: An award-winning Palestinian cameraman working for Reuters, Mazin Dana, is killed by a US tank machine fire near a prison outside Baghdad.

    5 September 2003: Aljazeera correspondent Taysir Alouni is arrested by Spanish authorities and is accused of belonging to an al-Qaida cell.

    5 September 2003: Reuters reports US military has admitted it utilised journalists embedded with its troops to win surrender of enemy forces.

    23 September 2003: Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) bans two Arab satellite networks, Aljazeera and Dubai-based al-Arabiya from covering council activities for two weeks for allegedly inciting anti-US violence. US backs ban.

     23 September 2003: IGC issues five rules of conduct to monitor media reporting in Iraq and says violators will be banned.

    23 October 2003: Aljazeera correspondent Taysir Alouni released on bail from a Spanish prison on medical grounds.

    21 November 2003: Palestine and Sheraton hotels in Baghdad come under attack, this time by unknown assailants. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) appeals to all parties to refrain from targeting journalists.

    24 November 2003: IGC, once again, bans al-Arabiya satellite channel from operating in Iraq for an unspecified period of time, for broadcasting a tape purporting to be of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's voice. Al-Arabiya brands decision "unfair". US backs ban.

    25 November 2003: US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accuses Aljazeera and al-Arabiya TV networks of cooperating with Iraqi resistance to film attacks staged against occupation forces.

    "They've called Aljazeera to come and watch them do it [attack American troops], and al-Arabiya. Come and see us, watch us; here is what we're going to do," he said at a Pentagon news conference.

    30 November 2003: Aljazeera correspondent Taysir Alouni, accused by Spanish authorities of links to al-Qaida, awarded a peace prize by the Francisca Mateos Foundation, for his work covering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    2 January 2004: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says 2003 is a deadly year for journalists, asserts death toll in Iraq was the highest from a single country.

    15 January 2004: RSF concludes Palestine Hotel killings were a deliberate assault on media.

    31 January 2004: IGC prohibits Aljazeera from covering council's activities for a month, for allowing an Iraqi dissident to speak out about an alleged Israeli infiltration of the occupied Arab country. Aljazeera reporters excluded from a council press conference.

    3 February 2004: CPJ condemns US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council's one-month long ban on Aljazeera, from 28 January to 27 February. "By continuing to penalise media in Iraq, the IGC discredits its professed support of a free press," says CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

    13 February 2004: An influential Iraqi Shia cleric calls on the IGC, during a Friday sermon, to permanently shut down Aljazeera bureau in Baghdad, because "it lies and creates division between people”. Aljazeera fends off accusations as "completely wrong".

    14 February 2004: Washington launches Al-Hurra (The Free One) TV station, targeting the Middle East and Gulf region, in a bid to counter anti-US sentiment fuelled by US war on Iraq. Al-Hurra is run by the Middle East Television Network (MTN) and financed by the US Congress.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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