Thursday, February 3, 2005

In war, mistakes happen and innocents are often killed. For journalists covering the action, the risk is extremely high. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 36 were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2004, some unfortunately as a result of U.S. fire. But were any of these journalists targeted for death, as CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan recently suggested?

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, during a discussion on media and democracy, Mr. Jordan apparently told the audience that “he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted,” according to a report on the forum’s Web site ( The account was corroborated by the Wall Street Journal and National Review Online, although no transcript of the discussion has surfaced. Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Christopher Dodd were also present, but calls to their offices were not returned in time for publication.

In any event, it’s an assertion Mr. Jordan has made before. In November, as reported in the London Guardian, Mr. Jordan said, “The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the U.S. military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by U.S. forces.” This is very serious stuff, if true. Yet aside from Mr. Jordan’s occasional comments, there’s no evidence to support it. Mr. Jordan’s almost immediate backpedaling seems to confirm this. In a statement to blogger Carol Platt Liebau, Mr. Jordan said, “To be clear, I do not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists in Iraq. I said so during the forum panel discussion. But, nonetheless, the U.S. military has killed several journalists in Iraq in cases of mistaken identity.” He added, “three of my CNN colleagues and many other journalists have been killed on purpose in Iraq.” He didn’t elaborate by whom.

According to information on CPJ’s Web site (, between 2003 and 2004, 12 journalists were killed as a result of U.S. fire. None was from CNN. At least a few of those were instances of mistaken identity. In one case, Terry Lloyd of ITV News was in an SUV at the start of the war in March 2003. As CPJ notes, an investigative report in the Wall Street Journal cited accounts of U.S. troops who recalled firing upon cars marked “TV” since it was believed suicide bombers were using them to attack U.S. troops. It appears, however, that Mr. Lloyd’s vehicle was caught in a crossfire. Aside from this one dubious case, none of the other reported deaths even remotely resembles intentional targeting by U.S. troops.

Doubtlessly, Mr. Jordan’s unsubstantiated comments play well for CNN’s international anti-American audience, who grasp at anything damaging to America’s reputation. If the CPJ information is wrong, however, we’d like to see the evidence from Mr. Jordan. Otherwise, how can CNN justify keeping on staff someone who maligns our troops with rumor and innuendo?

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