Saturday, May 14, 2005

AP's Mohammed Barakat: Reporter or Propagandist?

Associated Press writer Mohammed Barakat, who is covering Operation Matador in western Iraq, displays a gross anti-American bias in his reporting. This "reporter" seems interested only in emphasizing civilian casualties (but not ones caused by terrorist activity) and trying to find evidence that the Marines aren't being successful. Following are a few examples of Barakat's writing. I was unable to find a story by Barakat that portrayed the US in a positive, or even neutral light, which is always a huge red flag.

Houston Chronicle:
JAZIRAH DESERT, IRAQ - On the first day of a major U.S. offensive, two shells landed in Um Mazin's house. Grabbing what she could, she fled with four other women and 21 children.

Baltimore Sun:
Frightened residents retreated indoors as a large convoy of mainly Marines, backed by tanks redeployed several miles from Rommana to Obeidi, on the northern bank.

Chicago Tribune:
The U.S. military says the remote desert region is a haven for foreign combatants who slip across the border along ancient smuggling routes and collect weapons to use in some of Iraq's deadliest attacks. But the fighters who remain in this Sunni town about 200 miles west of Baghdad insist there are no foreigners.

"We are all Iraqis," said one gunman, his face covered with a scarf. He said the fighters were trying to prevent U.S. forces from entering.

ABC News:
But in the bomb-blasted streets of Qaim, where the offensive began Saturday, fighters armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades roamed the streets, checking vehicles as they entered and left the town.

"We are trying to protect our city's entrances, and we will prevent the U.S. forces from entering the city," declared one fighter, who covered his face with a scarf.
As you can see, Barakat approaches, or claims to approach, insurgents with impunity. Barakat's name indicates that he may be a local hired by AP to cover events in Iraq. Unfortunately, writing for the Associated Press guarantees a wide dissemination of Barakat's opinions, while providing little insight into what's actually happening during Operation Matador. If AP hired Barakat to write opinion with local flavor, fine, but they should label commentary for what it is, not put it on the wire as news.

I've contacted AP for a bio on Barakat, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for a response.

Update: If the Associated Press does choose to respond to my request for a bio of Mr. Barakat, perhaps we'll know if the snippets below refer to the same Mohammed Barakat who is currently writing for AP (and seems to have begun only around May 13, 2005)

From a Vermont-based anti-Israel website:
Zionist prison authority isolates prisoner for delivering Khutba
Palestinian Information Center 9/15/2003
Askalan - The Zionist prison authority of Askalan in southern occupied Palestine has isolated Palestinian detainee Mohammed Barakat after delivering a Friday Khutba (sermon) in the jail. The prison administration claimed that Barakat touched on political questions in his Khutba. It further alleged that his address contained incitement.
From a European anti-Israel website
At approximately 12:00 on the same day, Israeli occupation forced attacked some journalists, including those of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel, and denied them access to Jenin refugee camp to cover violations of human rights daily perpetrated by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians. Israeli forces chased the staff of the Spanish Television and intimidated its correspondent Mohammed Barakat and searched his car. They also attacked Walid al-'Emari, correspondent of Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel and confiscated film from his camera.
If the Associated Press has hired someone with this much evidence of an inherent anti-western bias they have an ethical obligation to present his writing as opinion, not objective fact. Of course, that's assuming one can reasonably expect ethical behavior from mainstream media sources.