War Delays Causing Reporter Uncertainty

Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

In the wake of a weekend summit among U.S., British and Spanish leaders, it appears that any war with Iraq is still some days away. This appears to have contributed to a sense in Baghdad among journalists that there is less urgency, even if there is still unease.
For foreign journalists in the Iraqi capital, the question of whether, or when, to vacate their posts and make the run to the border, a 10- to 12-hour drive away, gets dicier by the day.
“It would be crazy to leave now,” said one news executive. Still, though there is the question of getting out of the line of friendly fire, there is increasingly the question of whether any foreign journalist who pushes his or her luck in Baghdad is a potential hostage, should Saddam Hussein decide he has nothing to lose by snatching members of the press-or launch a preemptive military strike of his own.
There was one sign of movement among the Baghdad press corps: A number of journalists were moving out of the Al-Rashid Hotel, which is about three blocks away from the Ministry of Information, which is both the building in which the press is directed to work and a likely target in the first round of any attack by the United States, and into hotels in other areas of Baghdad.
“Everyone is on about as high alert as possible,” said one news executive back in the States, where the watchwords going into the weekend were “Make sure your pagers are on and stay close to the news.”
Even MTV, whose correspondent Gideon Yago is back home after reporting on his experiences in Kuwait, is making programming decisions that hew to the news about pending war.
Among the plans taking shape at the end of last week were arrangements for live cut-ins during MTV signature show “TRL” from Lara Logan, the young contributor to “60 Minutes II” and the only correspondent in the crew of five CBS News people still in Baghdad Friday.