Media Blog

“A Small Battle in the Media War”

Michael Yon writes about the media coverage of the British transfer of authority over the Maysan Province to the Iraqi government:

The transfer of authority did not even make the cut for news for most US publications and networks. Of those which included the story in their news reports, most mentioned it only as part of an overall report about the day’s activities in Iraq. Many of those included it in reports which were headlined or sandwiched with bad news about the violence in other parts of Iraq.
The Washington Post’sBombers Defy Security Push, Killing at least 158 in Baghdad” briefly mentions the transfer in a sentence in the seventeenth paragraph. Likewise, The New York Times’Bombings Kill at Least 171 Iraqis in Baghdad” mentions the transfer of the province somewhere in the sixth paragraph.
This general theme carried over in the UK media coverage as well. The Guardian offered “‘We’ll be in control by end of 2007’ say Maliki. [sic] In Baghdad, carnage continues.” The Independent headline blared “Hundreds killed on Baghdad’s day of bombs and blood.” Not to be outdone in the dramatic headline competition, The Mirror gave the world “BLOODIEST DAY: 191 dead and hundreds maimed as 5 bombs rock Baghdad.”
The BBC article titled “Iraq troops to take over security” reported on statements made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki in the speech prepared for the Maysan ceremony, (delivered by Iraq’s National Security Minister) about the schedule for turning over additional provinces to the control of Iraqi security forces. But before describing the ceremony and without ever providing any details about the province or the Iraqi security forces who now control it, the article inventoried recent attacks and included a mention of the withdrawal of Sadr loyalists from the Iraqi parliament.
On the day after the ceremony, the BBC mentioned it in the sixth paragraph of an article titled “Two UK soldiers killed in Iraq.” The next day it was mentioned again in a BBC article titled “UK soldiers killed in Iraq named,” although this time it was relegated to a mention in the nineteenth paragraph. No details about the ceremony were given in either article, both of which also referenced recent US and UK military casualties, civilian casualties and sectarian violence.
Along with Alex Zavis’ “British Hand Over Province to Iraqi Control” in The Los Angeles Times, two other reporters wrote stories headlined with the transfer ceremony. The Telegraph’s Thomas Harding filed his “200 killed as province returns to Iraqi control” from Camp Sparrowhawk, although he didn’t get around to anything about the transfer ceremony until the 20th paragraph. James Hider’s piece in The Times, “British put the ‘Wild West’ back under control of Iraqis,” was the only other news story about the transfer that was actually about the transfer.
While the journalists and all the rest headed back to their worlds in big helicopters, I flew deeper into Maysan desert with the Queen’s Royal Lancers where, in less than 24 hours, our patrol would be attacked with the largest array of bombs I ever encountered in Iraq, and where two UK soldiers would die.

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