Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Nic Robertson Needs to Work Harder

These were the opening and closing paragraphs of Nic Robertson’s report for CNN from Baghdad today:

CNN's Nic Robertson reports. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):

Turn on the TV in Iraq and this is what you can see -- insurgent videos showing in minute detail mortar attacks, rockets and roadside bombs, even sniper fire aimed at U.S. soldiers. The station that shows them, Zawra, was banned by the Iraqi government last month, but within days it was back on air. Zawra has become part of Iraq's inescapable tapestry of decline. Violence is the wallpaper of life here.

ROBERTSON: And when you turn on the TV, the impotence of its leaders to stop the bleeding is magnified. As they bicker and plot, the insurgents parade their latest exploits on the TV channel no one seems able to close down.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad. (END VIDEO TAPE)

If Zawra TV has indeed become “part of Iraq’s inescapable tapestry of decline” as Roberston put it, then the station merits some more investigating, wouldn’t ya think?

Here are some leads for CNN and Mr. Robertston:

-Zawra TV is owned by Misha’an Jebouri, a man who recently had his parliamentary immunity lifted in order to face charges of corruption and aiding the insurgency. At one point, David Ignatius thought that Jebouri was a credible Sunni leader. Possible CNN follow-up story: Was the Iraqi government right in going after Jebouri? Who in the CPA gave Jebouri his business contracts? Who was taking Jebouri around and touting him to the likes of Ignatius as a ‘Sunni leader’?

-Zawra TV is being beamed out of Arbil, according to one source I’ve spoken to. Arbil, in the Kurdish north, is Masoud Barzani’s domain. President Barzani has been a long-time patron of Jebouri’s. If little ol' me can figure that out, why can't CNN do the same with all its armored SUVs and its investigative reporter extraordinaire, Mr. Michael Ware? Possible CNN follow-up story: Why is Mr. Barzani subsidizing a satellite station that champions killing American soldiers? Is Barzani involved in any of Jebouri’s corrupt business ventures?

-Mr. Jebouri, now in Damascus, is also very ‘friendly’ to the Syrians. He’s been publishing his weekly newspaper, Al-‘Itijah al-Akher, for over a decade there, and one can still find it on Damascene newsstands. Possible CNN follow-up story: Why are the Syrians hosting someone who is propagating for the insurgents?

Oh my, I can pitch so many story ideas for CNN but I have a feeling that Robertson’s easy-breezy mention of Zawra TV as evidence of Iraq’s decline is all that the producers back in Atlanta ever really wanted. Too bad, there are so many great and juicy stories for journalists out there is Baghdad, yet there is a weird reluctance among the journalist caste to delve deeper into what seems to be an issue of great importance for the American public.


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