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Words in the News
Friday 02 April 2004
Iraq media wars
BBC correspondent John Simpson The ways in which the national media in different countries reported the Iraq war reflected the polarisation of opinion, especially in Europe, for and against the war strategy of the US and its allies.

This report from William Horsley:
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A traveller a year ago might almost have judged, from the media in different European countries, that two different wars were taking place. Much of the reporting in France and Germany, where the governments and people were both strongly against the war, was pervasively negative. There was a strong focus on stories of reverses suffered by the coalition forces, hostility to the invaders among ordinary Iraqis, and vivid reporting about the death and suffering of innocent civilians.

In Britain, where public opinion was evenly split for and against the war, the focus was more varied. The official comments of military spokesmen, who naturally stressed coalition successes, were a regular part of the coverage, alongside reports for example from Iraqi hospitals filled with victims of the war. The media in Britain became the forum for an impassioned public debate. And the BBC found itself at odds with the British government over its reporting of the postwar security problems inside Iraq, as well as some reports questioning the way the case for war had been made.

Research by Cardiff University in Wales found that the raw, first-hand reports by so-called "embedded" reporters, mostly American and British, added realism to the picture of the war given to the British public. Reporters from countries outside the coalition were excluded from that system. This, combined with the mood of public indignation, contributed to an unusual conformity of view in mainland Europe, among most, though not all, of the main newspapers.

William Horsley, BBC

Listen Listen to the words
Much of the reporting...was pervasively negative
anti-war opinions ran through many of the reports
a strong focus
reports concentrated on this topic
vivid reporting
clear detailed and lively presentation of news
public opinion was evenly split
the attitude of the public was divided with half in favour, half against
a regular part of the coverage
often reported
became the forum for an impassioned public debate
provided an opportunity for people to express their views with great feeling
raw, first-hand reports
reports giving the immediate impressions from people actually there
so-called 'embedded' reporters
the term 'embedded reporters became used for reporters actually accompanying the soldiers
the mood of public indignation
emotion at this time was one of shock and anger
an unusual conformity of view
a surprising number of people thought the same thing
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