Journalistic convention in America tends to treat this war as Gulf War II but we have chosen to refer to it as Gulf War III, which is the way many writers in our region-the Middle East-perceive the war. The difference is symptomatic, on both sides of a great divide made greater by virtue of this conflict. For too many Americans the Middle East is of interest only to the degree that its convulsions impose themselves upon America either in the form of a spectacular act of terrorism or wars that America feels it must fight-in the case of what we consider to be Gulf War II, because of the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait and its oil wealth and the implicit threat of a further advance against Saudi Arabia and its oil wealth, or in the case of this war for a variety of reasons that often vary according to which American one talks to.
But the Iraqi invasion of Iran ought perhaps to have provided the American leadership with a better sense of Saddam Hussein's own extraordinary self-perception, instead of making it see only the necessity of saving Iraq and the Fertile Crescent from a "fundamentalist" wave sweeping all before it when the Iraqi invasion faltered and then fell back. The Lords of the Gulf understood it well and trembled at the time (1980) at Saddam's professed vision of a Pax Iracia, and they felt considerable (if eventually, expensive) relief that this vision of a Greater Iraq was diverted to Iranian territory only shortly after Baghdad had announced its historic destiny as protector of the entire Gulf.
Never before in the history of warfare has the coverage-and in particular the transnational television coverage-attracted so much attention and fierce debate. Some of that debate is reflected in our own reports; most of it however is to be found in our provisional archive, entitled Media on Media. The impact of television journalism in that coverage, far out of proportion to the actual number of television journalists in relation to all journalists (print and still photo) participating in the coverage, is reflected in the way the issues posed by television journalism have dominated the discourse. The disproportionate impact is also reflected in the death toll. As of the evening of April 8th - when this editorial was being written - 16 journalists had died while covering the war. Of these, 13 were television journalists. And John Simpson, the television journalists' journalist, came close to making it 14 (see Simpson's "Moments after the Attack"). In part, of course that is because television journalists by definition must take more chances. As one of our senior editors invariably remarks when drawing conclusions from his own experiences as a television journalist: "In all the years I worked for NBC News, no news director or news desk editor ever asked me if I had the story-they only wanted to know if I had the picture."
That also suggests that while television journalism has extraordinary impact upon the emotions, it does not necessarily contribute to a critical understanding of what is going on and it rarely provides necessary background or historically grounded insight. For that we must rely on print journalism and works of history.
But to return to our own historic survey: go to our archives and note how often we have observed in the virtual pages of this journal that transnational broadcasting in the Arab world was born in the experience of passive witness to CNN's ability to provide intense continuous coverage of Gulf War II. Never again would Arab broadcasters be so passive with regard to tumultuous experiences within their own region or homeland and within a year of Gulf War II Arab transnational television news broadcasting had begun, pioneered by MBC, followed and then abruptly terminated by Orbit-BBC, whose slack was quickly picked up by Al Jazeera, which would then play the role in Afghanistan-as sole holder of a broadcasting asset out of Kabul-that CNN had enjoyed in Gulf War II out of Baghdad.
By this time a year ago, with the Intifada and the Sharonist Counter-Intifada in full swing, Al Jazeera was no longer alone, and now in Gulf War III it seems as if everyone is in on the act-either with their own extensive coverage both in what was Baathist Baghdad and/or embedded with Coalition troops. This is the case with the "big four"-Al Jazeera, Abu Dhabi TV, Al Arabiya and Al Hayat/LBC-and with all the other Arabic-language channels, which either maintain a far more modest presence and/or make extensive use of international news agency footage; some of these even use proxy reporters and crews from an international news agency such as Associated Press Television News to provide coverage in the name of the Arab client [see interview with Ian Ritchie] and to a lesser degree by Video Cairo with its own formidable presence in Baghdad [see Video Cairo Sat: the Pressure of War]. Nor is CNN alone among Western broadcasters in the field, as it was in Baghdad circa 1991. Sky, BBC World, Fox, and CNBC/MSNBC are all competing this time around to a greater or lesser degree, and available globally, courtesy for the English-speaking viewer in the Middle East of the vast Nilesat platform, which has also transformed just about all of the Arab national channels, for better or worse, into transnational broadcasters.
All of these issues and concerns are reflected in our own coverage of the coverage. Dispatches from the Field introduces, in addition to John Simpson, Chris Gray and Maggie Zanger, journalists who recorded their experiences waiting for the war in Iraqi Kurdistan. S. Abdallah Schleifer also took to the field, reporting back on the sense of unreality hanging over Doha (see From the newsrooms of the Gulf ), where the US Army grapples with the dynamics of the Arab media (see interview with Public Information Officer First Lieutenant Josh Rushing) and Al Jazeera manages its war in the face not only of widespread admiration, but also of controversy, hostility, and even physical attack (see interviews with Al Jazeera's managing director Mohammed Jasim Al Ali and editor-in-chief Ibrahim Helal). Moving on to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, he talked too with Al Jazeera's main competitors, at Abu Dhabi TV (see interviews with director Ali Al Ahmed and Abu Dhabi News Center director Nart Bouran) and Al Arabiya (see interview with head of news Salah Negm).
The war has not only provided a proving ground for a new style of action-journalism but has also tested technologies, channels' logistical capacities, and the region's press support facilities. Technologies, Logistics, and Services looks at some of the technical challenges and responses to war on the part of the media. David Cass reports on "Laptop News Gathering," a technology that has made its debut in Iraq (see New Compression Technologies Aid War Reporting, Save Cash), while APTN's CEO tells how he is dealing with the logistical and technical challenges (see Interview with Ian Ritchie) and Noha El-Hennawi describes how the region's largest provider of media services is coping (see Video Cairo Sat: the Pressure of War).
In Mediating the War, TBS looks at how the media have dealt with the war in a number of countries and from a number of viewpoints. Brian McNair reports on what British viewers saw, in The Iraq War As Seen In Britain: UK Satellite Coverage. The four articles in Coverage from the Arab World has been viewed as both impacting on and reflecting the concerns of those most immediately affected by the war, but neither the coverage itself not the response to it is monolithic. The four following articles each provide a part of the larger picture of the highly diversified Arab media. Hussein Amin reviews some of the responses of viewers in the region in Watching the War in the Arab World, while Abbas Al Tonsi's Impressions Of An Arab Viewer On The Satellite Coverage Of The So-Called "War On Iraq" delivers a mordant judgment on both the performance of the Arab channels and the environment in which they operate. In A Palestinian Perspective on Satellite Television Coverage of the Iraq War, In'am El-Obeidi contextualizes and dissects the peculiar intensity with which viewers on the West Bank and in Gaza receive news of the war, and Janet Fine's Al Jazeera Winning TV Credibility War looks at the ratings wars among the Arab channels.
The Western and Arab media were not, however, the only ones watching how events transpired in Iraq. Dilruba Catalbas's Divided and Confused: The Reporting of the First Two Weeks of the War in Iraq on Turkish Television Channels and Christine Ogan's Big Turkish Media and the War assess the response of the relatively new satellite channels in a country intimately involved, though not on the front linew. India, though not itself a party to the war, India stands to win or lose much from it; Janet Fine documents how the distant drama has impacted on the development of the media in Covering the Iraq War in India.
Media on Media, the archive-in-progress alluded to above, offers 26 articles from the world's press in which journalists analyze, praise, and attack the war coverage of their fellows (Parties to the Conflict). Before these, however, we have placed two pieces that, as an antidote to so much navel-gazing, highlight the potential cost to ordinary people of the media's actions (Moral Dilemmas of the Press).
"Friendly Fire?" - the Peter Arnett Affair provides Peter Arnett's and NBC's own accounts of an incident that exposed and tested the "red lines" of Western journalism.
TBS managing editor Humphrey Davies may be said to have a love-hate relationship with satellite-television-at-war. As the conflict progressed, the issue posed itself ever more acutely, as he reveals in Credo of a Crouching Couch Potato.
While sometimes hard to remember, the Iraq war was not the only thing going on in the world this Spring. In Issues and Developments, Bella Thomas questions the received wisdom on "cultural hegemony" when she discusses What the World's Poor Watch on TV. Monal Zeidan reports on changes at a major actor in the regional market in New Moves for Showtime, while Janet Fine notes an anniversary in Globalization of Indian Satellite TV Marks 25 Years, and Chris Forrester discusses the latest development in entertainment-related gadgetry (Could SatMode Be Satellite's "Killer App?"). Looking at a more established industry, Patrick Stoddart describes News World's effort to train a new generation for the challenges ahead (News World-the Next Generation). Any consideration of those challenges, however, brings us back to issues of media and conflict, and these were at the forefront of two important panel discussions held in 2002, one under the aegis again of News World (News World Dublin - Countdown to Conflict)-a piece that makes especially interesting reading now that the war has been fought and reported-and the other organized by NewsXchange (New Media Realities in the Middle East) and dealing with that other conflict, in Palestine, which has done so much to prepare the media for Iraq. Similarly, our Conference Report in this issue covers an event that saw many preliminary skirmishes in the battle for media autonomy that was later to be played out in earnest in Iraq (News World Dublin, November 2002 by Janet Key).
Despite all this sturm und drang, TBS is happy to be able to find room for Academic Papers that can stand back and look at some aspects of the broader context. Christa Salamandra provides an ethnography of London's Arab Media and the Construction of Arabness. Dilruba Catalbas examines the interactions of Turkish and US satellite broadcasters in "Glocalization" - a Case History: Commercial Partnerships and Cooperation between Turkish and American Satellite Broadcasters and Mohammed el-Nawawy and Leo A. Gher discuss Al Jazeera's potential role in the building of bridges between East and West (Al Jazeera: Bridging the East-West Gap through Public Discourse and Media Diplomacy). The Reviews section will return in our next issue.
The opinions expressed in these articles reflect the opinions of their authors and are not necessarily those of TBS. In this issue more than ever, given the strong emotions and diverse attitudes generated by the war, we are trying to provide readers and particularly scholars with a sense of different perspectives.