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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Reporting the war

By John Simpson
BBC world affairs editor in northern Iraq

This has not been a safe war for journalists.

ITV reporter Terry Lloyd
ITN's Terry Lloyd was a veteran war reporter
In the first 11 days of the conflict, a cameraman has been killed by a suicide bomber, a reporter has apparently been shot by coalition forces, and another reporter has died accidentally.

Significantly, perhaps, they were all operating outside the "embedding" system, whereby journalists are assigned to particular military units.

No "embed" has so far been a casualty - not surprising, perhaps, since the coalition forces have themselves suffered relatively few deaths and injuries.

Fallen colleagues

Terry Lloyd of ITV News died within a couple of days of the start of the war.

Spc. Bernard S. Wiess, a journalist assigned to the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, films an oil fire in Iraq
The "embedding" system has provided superb coverage of the war so far

He was an instinctively independent journalist who would never have been happy as an "embed".

His courage and his freedom of movement were famous, and - although he started off with the other thousands of press people in Kuwait - he and his team escaped across the border with Iraq as soon as they could, searching for stories.

Terry was apparently on the road between Iraqi forces and the oncoming coalition forces when he was killed. Two members of his team remain unaccounted for.

British television news suffered a second shattering blow last Sunday, when Gaby Rado of Channel 4 News died as the result of an accident.

Gaby was one of the most thoughtful and humane correspondents working in the field of international news - a man with the intellectual capacity to understand the complexities of the things he reported, while at the same time keeping a clear sympathy for the ordinary people involved.

People like me regarded both Terry and Gaby as friends and colleagues first, and as competitors only a long way afterwards.

Independence

Should they, and the translator who died with Terry, and the Australian cameraman, who was filming in north-eastern Iraq when he was killed by the suicide bomber, really have been there?

ITN cameraman Daniel Demoustier
Daniel Demoustier - a member of Terry Lloyd's team - dived into a ditch to save his life

Might it have been better if they too had been "embedded" with some military unit which would have protected them better?

I don't think so, and I don't think they would have, either.

True, the "embedding" system has provided superb coverage of the war so far.

It has shown us graphically how strong the Iraqi resistance has been, and how different the course of the war has been from the original American blueprint.

For this reason, I suspect that if there should be another war of this kind, which we must fervently hope there won't, the generals will prefer a much more limited form of "embedding".

But free-ranging independence is the quintessence of good journalism.

It is of the greatest importance that we should also have unattached reporters who rove around no-man's-land, searching out their own stories, bearing witness to the truths that can't be found by people who are restricted to one side.

These three have died for the independence which is at the heart of true reporting.




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