Kommentar

Something rotten

«There is corruption in our business,» skriver John Burns, New York Times-journalisten som hadde mange av de beste reportasjene fra Bagdad under krigen. Burns refser journalist-kollegaer for å smiske med det irakiske regimet. De unnlot å rapportere om ting som kanskje ville ført til at de ble nektet visum. Burns var ifølge ham selv i en særstilling blant vestlige journalister i Bagdad, den ble tettest overvåket og sterkest mislikt. Han ble beskyldt for å være CIA-agent og frastjålet alt utstyr, men lot seg ikke knekke eller trues til taushet av det irakiske informasjonsministeriet og Saddams hemmelige politi.

«From the point of view of my being in Baghdad, I had more authority than anybody else. Without contest, I was the most closely watched and unfavored of all the correspondents there because of what I wrote about terror whilst Saddam Hussein was still in power.»

I motsetning til mange andre journalister, mente Burns at regimets terror var den viktigste historien før selve krigen.

«Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that this was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay.»

Burns navngir dessverre ikke, trolig av kollegiale årsaker, de journalistene han anklager for å bestikke regimets representanter, særlig informasjonsministeren og hans folk.

«There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.»

Et ødeleggende oppgjør med korrupsjon blant journalister. La oss håpe noen av dem føler seg truffet og tar opp hansken fra Burns. Kanskje til og med i Norge? Uansett et viktig bidrag til debatten om pressedekningen av Irak-krigen, som ellers ofte går i opptråkkede spor.