Fwd: The first casualty, as usual, is truth
>From The Poison Kitchen, a website for disgruntled reporters(is there another kind?): http://poisonkitchen.com/.
Don't miss their response, at the end.
Printed in a recent issue of Harpers for the public's
general amusement, shock and scorn:
Panama City (FL) News Herald chief copy editor Ray Glenn's
memo re war coverage
Oct. 31, 2001
There are a few items that we must take care of immediately: No
one on the copy desk is to leave any night without checking with
Camera Room personnel to make sure your pages have been
received. This means you MUST PERSONALLY SEE ALL YOUR PAGES
AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN PROCESSED. If they are in the queue but
not processed, they have not been received as far as I am
concerned. Also, do not call Lawrence, Jerry, Flip, Harold or
anyone else and ask if your pages have been received. You will be
responsible for your own pages.
Per Hal's order, DO NOT USE photos on Page 1A showing civilian
casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. [Note: "Hal" is News
Herald executive editor Hal Foster.] Our sister paper in Fort
Walton Beach has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of
threatening e-mails and the like. Also per Hal's order, DO NOT USE
wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the U.S. war
on Afghanistan. They should be mentioned further down in the story.
If the story needs rewriting to play down the civilian casualties,
DO IT. The only exception is if the U.S. hits an orphanage, school
or similar facility and kills scores or hundreds of children. See
me if there are any special situations.
There was a head bust on an attacks page today because the
headline was not spell checked. This is a violation of a direct
order to SPELL CHECK ALL HEADLINES. This will not be tolerated under
any circumstances. USE SPELL CHECK EVERY TIME.
Failure to follow any of these or other standing rules could put
your job in jeopardy.
>For the record, The Kitchen Staff takes an editorial stance in favorACTION ALERT:
>of checking with camera room personnel to make sure your pages
>have been received, spell checking headlines and avoiding any sort
>of copy-related "bust." On that war thing, though, tell Hal to fuck
>himself with a bent pica pole until he personally explains to an
>Afghan war orphan who is missing a limb or two why giant fighter
>jets bombing his family's village into dust isn't story-topping news
>while the fact that "bin Laden's not in this cave either," is.
NYT Buries Story of Airstrikes on Afghan Civilians
January 9, 2002
On December 30, U.S. airstrikes hit the village of
Niazi Kala (also called Qalaye Niaze) in eastern
Afghanistan, killing dozens of civilians. The attack
was major news in several U.K. newspapers, with the
Guardian and the Independent running front-page
stories. The headlines were straightforward: "U.S.
Accused of Killing Over 100 Villagers in Airstrike"
(Guardian, 1/1/02); "U.S. Accused of Killing 100
Civilians in Afghan Bombing Raid" (Independent,
1/1/02); "'100 Villagers Killed' in U.S. Airstrike"
(London Times, 1/1/02).
In contrast, the New York Times first reported the
civilian deaths at Niazi Kala under the headline
"Afghan Leader Warily Backs U.S. Bombing" (1/2/02).
The U.N. estimated that 52 civilians were killed by the
U.S. attack, including 25 children, and disputed
Pentagon claims that those killed were linked to Al
Qaeda. According to the U.N., "unarmed women and
children" were "chased and killed by American
helicopters," some "as they fled to shelter" and others
"as they tried to rescue survivors" (London Times,
1/4/02). Noting that "innumeracy, rapid burial, damage
to bodies, propaganda" and "remoteness" make it
difficult to reach a precise count of any of the
civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the Guardian reported
that surviving villagers estimated anywhere between 32
and 107 dead, with the higher number coming from staff
at the local hospital (1/7/02).
The Pentagon contends that the village was a legitimate
military target because it sheltered Taliban leaders,
Al Qaeda fighters and an ammunition dump, and reporters
who toured the destruction saw evidence of a
substantial weapons cache. But local residents denied
links to the Taliban or Al Qaeda, and said that in fact
many of those killed were guests in town for a wedding.
As the Los Angeles Times has pointed out (1/8/02), the
attack "raises difficult questions about the accuracy
of the local information the United States is getting
about the whereabouts of remaining Al Qaeda fighters."
Descriptions of the destruction in Niazi Kala from
reporters on the scene have been shocking. Guardian
correspondent Rory Carroll (1/7/02) reported seeing
"bloodied children's shoes and skirts, bloodied school
books, the scalp of a woman with braided grey hair,
butter toffees in red wrappers, wedding decorations."
Similarly, the Los Angeles Times' Alissa J. Rubin
reported "fragments of skull with black braided hair
decorated with silver thread-- an accessory common
among women in this region," a child's "severed shoe"
and other evidence that "makes clear that women and
children were killed by the U.S. bombing" (1/8/02).
The New York Times, however, has shied away from such
graphic accounts. In its January 2 article, the Times
treated reports that "up to 100 villagers in Paktia
Province had been killed" not so much as a story in its
own right, but as background to the issue of whether
Hamid Karzai, head of the interim Afghan government,
was holding firm in "his support for the war against
terrorism." Further details on the killings at Niazi
Kala were scarce, but Times readers did learn that
"part way through the interview, an aide entered
carrying two scones" sent by Karzai's sister-in-law in
Baltimore. The Times apparently included this
information to support Karzai's contention that "things
now seemed quite organized and civilized" in
The following day, the New York Times provided more
information about Niazi Kala, but once again nestled
the story within an article on a related topic, this
one about accusations that warlord Pacha Khan Zadran
has provided false information to the U.S., leading to
the airstrikes that last month struck a convoy of
tribal leaders (1/3/02). The attack on Niazi Kala--
which some have suggested was also targeted on Zadran's
recommendation (Independent, 1/4/02)-- came up when the
Times reported Zadran's "assessment" that the villagers
had been linked to the Taliban and therefore legitimate
targets. Commendably, the Times did contrast Zadran's
version on the story with the U.N.'s "far more chilling
account of the human cost of destroying the weapons
stash," quoting the report at some length.
Unfortunately, these important details were buried in
the middle of the page A15 story, reflected neither in
its headline nor its lead.
In response to international pressure, including a
British Member of Parliament's formal demands for an
inquiry, the Pentagon has agreed to investigate the
attack on Niazi Kala (Guardian, 1/4/02, 1/7/02). So
far, the New York Times has not reported this fact.
The Times' poor reporting of this story comes in the
midst of a general failure of the mainstream U.S. press
to seriously investigate the extent of civilian
casualties in Afghanistan and the legality of the U.S.
ACTION: Please contact the New York Times and encourage
it to cover civilian casualties caused by U.S. attacks
on Afghanistan, like those at Niazi Kala, as an
important story in their own right. You might also ask
them to follow closely and critically the Pentagon's
investigation into the attack on Niazi Kala.
CONTACT: New York Times 229 West 43rd St. New York, NY
10036-3959 mailto:nytnews@... Toll free comment
As always, please remember that your comments are taken
more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc
fair@... with your correspondence.
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