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Friday, June 09, 2006 

Sun, Star and Express-watch: Burying bad news.

Today's Sun for once has a serious news story on its front page. Rather than still obsessing over Lady Mucca's ancient photo shoot, they quite predictably have a bit of a song and dance over the death of al-Zarqawi. Nothing wrong with that particularly, although whether he was personally responsible for the deaths of thousands, or that he deserved a violent death, whatever he had done, is questionable, as the Sun says in its leader. What is wrong is the fact that the Sun has been burying some of the more "bad" news from Iraq.

Arab Media Watch noticed that the Sun, Daily Express and Daily Star have not printed a word about the alleged massacres by US troops of Iraqi civilians at Haditha and Ishaqi. Asked for their response as to why they didn't decide to print this bad or troubling news, the Sun told the AMW that they would get back to them. They haven't. Someone at the Daily Express was a little more verbose. He/she, claiming to be the news editor, said:

Why should we tell you? It is not a forum for discussion, it is not a debating society, it is a newspaper.
Some would disagree with the Express being a newspaper, but his/her response is typical of the arrogance of tabloid news editors being questioned over what they consider newsworthy. Only "they" know what the public want. The real Express news editor later got in touch with AMW, who report the following:

Express news editor Greg Swift told AMW he was not the person who responded to our request for comment on this lack of coverage by saying: "Why should we tell you? It is not a forum for discussion, it is not a debating society, it is a newspaper." As someone else at the Express wrongly claimed to be the news editor (Swift said he is the only one at the paper), AMW is not to blame for the error, but nonetheless apologises to him for any inconvenience caused, and has removed specific reference to him in the initial press release on our website.

Swift said the Express did report the Haditha massacre, but AMW has not found evidence of this in print or through LexisNexis.
The Daily Star also responded, with the reply coming back from the AMW:

The Star emailed AMW the following statement: "The Daily Star is about giving readers a smile with their morning newspaper. We specialise in celebrity, television, sport and fun, upbeat stories. Our readers - being the youngest and most new technology aware in the UK - will have got their hard, international political news stories from television and internet news services."

However on 7 June, the day after AMW's initial press release, the Star had a half-page article entitled "Boy, 4, kills himself making a sarnie", with the subheading "Horror as knife goes through lad's heart". On 8 June, it reported rape allegations ("I'm no rapist") and an anthrax scare in Parliament ("MPs anthrax fear"). These can hardly be described as "fun, upbeat" stories "giving readers a smile".

The 7 June edition also reported three British soldiers being cleared of killing an Iraqi boy ("Squaddies in the clear"). On 8 June, it reported "a British computer whiz kid" being "at the heart of an international al-Qaida terror network" linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, "al-Qaida's top man in Iraq who mercilessly slaughtered Brit hostage Ken Bigley." These are surely "hard", political news stories with an international dimension, and further raise AMW's concerns that coalition abuses in Iraq are not getting the attention they deserve.
Back to the Sun, who have yet to respond to AMW's concerns, and where it's not the first time that concerns over the behaviour of coalition forces have been buried. Bloggerheads reports on the Sun's coverage of the Abu Gharib prisoner abuse scandal:

For example, when the images of torture in Abu Ghraib were front page news, The Sun buried it on page 6, with less than a 1/4 page, 130 words and a teeny-tiny picture. The next day, leading with George W. Bush's version of events, they used 229 words. And that was about it.
Not that all of News International has been so silent about abuses. The Times reports on the Haditha massacre attracted the wrath of Michelle Malkin, the bat shit insane right-winger, when they used the wrong photograph. The photograph on their website report of the massacre was actually that of 19 Shia fishermen killed by Sunni insurgents, rather than the 24 allegedly killed by the US marines. Despite one of the editors' quickly making things right and apologising profusely, Malkin and her readers weren't satisfied, one of whom came up with this completely bone-headed anaylsis:

That would be Rupert Murdoch who is holding fundraisers for Hillary Clinton. Small world.
Err, yes, it would also be the same Rupert Murdoch who owns Fox News, and hundreds of newspapers across the globe, every one of which supported the Iraq war. It would also be the same Rupert Murdoch who said the best thing to come out of the Iraq war would be $20 for a barrel of oil, not the finding of WMD or ridding the Iraqi people of a hated tyrant. All Hillary Clinton is doing is sucking up to Murdoch, much like Blair did prior to the Sun coming out in favour of Labour in 1997. It should also be noted that Hillary Clinton is more gung-ho over Iran than many Republicans, which no doubt fits with Murdoch's own political views.

What is typical is the Sun's reporting only of the good news from Iraq, or of the cycle of death which is close to civil war. There must be no bad name given to the liberators who are there saving the Iraqis from themselves. No one is suggesting that all of them are murdering out of control bastards, but when you don't even devote a single word to the matter of such a horrible apparently covered-up massacre, especially when it featured on the Times' front page, not known for being quick to condemn the army, it makes you look like a propaganda rag purely for the neo-conservative cause. And that of course, is exactly what the Sun is. It's also worth remembering the amount of criticism the News of the Screws came in for when it published the story about the British servicemen who beat up a number of Iraqi youths after they were apparently attacked with stun grenades and stones. If it puts "our boys" in danger, then it looks like the Sun will no longer touch it.

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