All over the world, the media has been credited with the role of promoting democracy as well as offering unedited stories in various scenes. However, this freedom has over the years been abused by many governments who restrict what their media transmits or change the stories altogether. Amongst the most notable culprits, in this case, including such countries as North Korea. In 2003, when the American army invaded Iraq, It was through media coverage that the public was stunned at media bias witnessed during the period, given their status as a superpower as well as their values as a free and democratic state (Shanker, p. 1). This was one of the most embarrassing stories on the media, which had been given an exclusive role in promoting democracy in the United States. Accordingly, it acted as a good example to other nations all over the world. This paper will explore media coverage and bias in the United States-Iraq war.
Media is mandated with the task of informing society on various issues that directly or indirectly touch their lives. It is, therefore, an integral part of society and should give unbiased information to promote its fundamental values of a free and fair society. There are several ways through which media channels information to the society, these can be through the television, radios, websites, blogs, and newspapers, among others. Advancements in technology have made the world a small place as transmissions from coverage areas can be viewed throughout the world, this has been instrumental in helping detect biasness on news in various countries(Shanker, p. 1).
Media coverage is the process of reporting scenes of events; Media firms are expected to offer inclusive coverage of events to allow for fair judgments by the audiences. This has not been fully achieved as was expected since most media personnel align themselves to various political, cultural, or societal cocoons. Because of this, Media bias reports have been rampant in various firms and countries, the U.S. included. Media biasness occurs when journalists or media producers bring impartiality in mass media when selecting the events or stories address. There are standards regulating mass media, when these standards are pervasively contravened, it is called media bias. Deferent countries experience different kinds of media biasness. These, in most cases, are monitored by the international watchdog groupings. The United States media was extensively implicated for media bias during their 2003 invasion of Iraq (Shanker, p. 1).
Media in the United States
American media has been criticized for numerous problems that have surrounded them in the recent period. These problems, ranging from scandals on manipulations, dumbing down, plagiarism, to biasness, among others. Due to globalization, many people outside the United States have acknowledged media imprecision, bias, and distortions, and until recently, citizens have started to realize this although with much difficulty, because of the distortions. Every strong nation needs its people’s support. This has to be inclusive of everyone because a divided state cannot stand. It is therefore quite imperative that a point of conformity is reached, and this is important in ensuring peace in society. American politics, therefore, try to contain support from its citizens, and this could have been attributed to media bias as they endeavor to be right in every situation (Deans, p. 1).
Media coverage and Bias in the American – Iraq war
Media bias was rampantly witnessed during the 2003 Iraq invasion by the United States. Extensive clams of media suppression were accounted for, with propaganda taking a grip in the media group as well as other delicates on media coverage. Fox News, a cable network was among the broadcasters of war in Iraq. It is claimed that some of its news Anchors and commentators allied to Rupert Murdoch, who owns the firm and supported the war, made several pro-war comments like the great unwashed and this was divergent to several newspapers that were tentative about the whole idea of war. Since the 2001 September 11 attack on the U.S., Fox had kept showing animations of the US flag on the top left corner of its screen, with pro-war headlines like Operation Iraqi Freedom possibly implying that the war was key top Iraqi freedom. This should have been left for the public to decide as placing the headline amounted to an unfair influence on the public’s freedom to object (Deans, p. 1).
This contrasted other moments of coverage when the fox, through other commentators who were against the war, like some Western networks which were anti-Iraqi war covered rallies on anti-war protesters and presentations by celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, and so on, who were also against the war (Stateofthenewsmedia, Inc par. 1-6). Anti-war remarks on former U.S. president, Bush, in country music by Dixie received banning and boycotts in its concert that was held in London, amounting to bias (Schell par. 2-8). Another media firm, MSNBC fired Donahue, a liberal who criticized President Bush over the Iraqi war and then replaced his show by coverage on the war, barely a month before it started, citing poor rating as their reason, which was ironical as it ranked best in terms rating at the primetime lineup in MSNBC. In addition, MSNBC ran a compliment on one of their main screen known as America’s Bravest. It contains scenes of families of the soldiers who were deployed in Iraq. Overall, it was Fox that received the highest number of viewers on the war, followed by CNN and then MSNBC, although CNN had been expected to top, given their resurgence during the Gulf war in 1990 to 1991.
Those who questioned United States’ part in the war were sacked, for instance, Peter Arnett, who was a correspondent with National geographic as well as NBC, had interviewed Iraqi officials when the issue arose. Others that got the sack included Brian Walski, a correspondent of Los Angels Times for editing a picture of a U.S. combatant who was trying to warn civilians in Iraq of an imminent bomb attack. Not to mention, Rivera, sent back to the U.S. for drawing a map in sand, feared to have had the potential of revealing important information on the aerial movement of U.S. troops (Deans, p. 1).
This information played important role in exploring the main reason for the invasion by the United States of Iraq. Questions were raised on its validity, with research studies on opinion polls closely linking falsity to the whole saga. Among the studies that criticized pro-invasion included one done by Maryland University, which found that over 57% of the polled viewers thought that Iraq’s support to Al-Qaeda was false. In addition, about 69% did not believe that Saddam had a personal attachment to the 2001 September 11 attack; moreover, a massive 72% doubted the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In contrast, Over 80% of those who watched Fox news had these misconceptions, and this highlights the magnitude of influence business had on the public and its capability of imposing views on the citizens and extensively violating its fundamental goals of promoting a free as well as democratic society by reporting impartial events and stories (Stateofthenewsmedia, Inc par. 1-6).
To further damage the media’s credibility, it was found that top Pentagon officials gave special information to analysts in secret meetings, according to an investigation, which was conducted by New York Times. These meetings were claimed to have been avenues of urging the media to support the war and unfairly imposing such influence on the public. Footages and reports by independent networks showed a great disparity in media coverage, an example is the Indymedia network which gave uncontrolled coverage of the war. Soldiers, through blogs, gave other uncensored reports and these helped to give more evidence on media bias (Barstow, p. 1).
Iraq also saw media censorship both prior, and during the war. President Saddam, through His son Uday, ensured all media sources were monitored to control their information. This was closely accompanied by threats of death in case of an insult to the president, perversely infringing on the citizen’s freedom of speech and access to information. This was followed by drastic changes during the invasion as several affiliations like religious groups and organizations sponsored various media agencies to air their opinions, making them sectarian throughout the country. Manipulation was also noted as claims arose that the Pentagon had a special secret program of paying some media groups to show their support for the war with several headlines that favored U.S. invasion. These comments included some, which claimed that the U.S. sent money to help develop Iraq; these were seen in Iraq newspapers (Schell par. 2-8).
Coverage of U.S. casualties was also at fault in the media; Bush’s administration met these reports with difficulties and tried in most cases to downplay the deaths. A ban instituted by the Clinton administration in 2000 was reinforced during the invasion and that barred release of pictures showing killed U.S. soldiers, but in contrast, showing the damage to their opponents (Barstow, p. 1). They even went to an extent of re-scheduling the return of injured combatants to avoid the media. Sometimes there would be a dispute in the number of casualties noted by U.S. and external media. All these showed how the war in Iraq had mixed reactions and events as the Bush administration focused on ensuring public support throughout the invasion. Studies show that this received little success as his popularity diminished significantly after the invasion (Schell par. 2-8).
Media coverage has shown its weaknesses in covering sensitive issues like the war witnessed in Iraq. Through Pentagon, the U.S. administration used all means available to them including censoring media to ensure they got support from the American public. In the process, the fundamentals of media institutions were eroded. Their role in promoting a free and fair society was greatly demised from these events. This was also witnessed in Iraqi media, which was overwhelmed by various affiliations, including the pentagon that tried to promote their agendas, at the expense of innocent Iraqi civilians who felt the damage inflicted. These events exposed the media’s need to improve on its coverage to combat biasness. Media Bias is therefore real and should be addressed to ensure public observations are based on their fair judgments and not imposed (Barstow 1).
Barstow, David. Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand. The New York Times. 2008.
Deans, Jason. Rivera gets army boot out of Iraq. London: The Guardian. 2003.
Schell, Orville. Baghdad: The Besieged Press. New York Review of Books. 2006.
Shanker, Thom. The struggle for Iraq: the image campaign; no breach Is Seen in Planting U.S. Propaganda in Iraq Media. The New York Times. 2003.
Stateofthenewsmedia, Inc. Misperceptions, Media, and the Iraq War. The PIPA/Knowledge Networks Poll The American Public On International Issues. 2005.