British press defiant in face of Baghdad terror attacks

By Dominic Ponsford

The Guardian may have this week recalled its staff from Iraq, but
most British newspapers look set to continue sending correspondents to
the country despite the dangers.

On Wednesday, Guardian staff were planning to hold a debrief at the
company’s London offices, following the kidnap for 36 hours of the
newspaper’s Iraq correspondent, Rory Carroll.

Guardian
photographer and writer Ghaith Abdul-Ahad has been pulled out of the
country, as has Middle East correspondent Rory McCarthy, who flew to
Baghdad following Carroll’s disappearance.

Guardian foreign
editor Harriet Sherwood said: “We pulled everyone out to have a full
debrief and to review our security procedures. We need to decide
whether the benefits of being in Iraq still outweigh the risks, which
is the balancing act we have to look at all the time.

“It is definitely the most difficult issue I have to deal with on an ongoing basis.”

All
the British national quality dailies have permanent correspondents in
Baghdad and the Sundays and tabloids send correspondents out
intermittently.

The Daily Telegraph said it had no plans to recall its Baghdad correspondent Oliver Poole.

Foreign
editor Alan Philps said: “Wereview every week whether the risks justify
having a correspondent out there. We still get unique insights and very
readable stuff from Iraq.

“There have to be people in Baghdad to
keep an eye on what the coalition forces are doing and to tell us how
the Iraqis are feeling, about their hopes and fears. We are staying out
there, but hopefully there are lessons we can learn from last week’s
events. One of these is that the Sadrists are a greater risk than we
thought.”

The Independent has Patrick Cockburn in Iraq, and
according to staff on the foreign desk, it plans to continue its normal
Baghdad rota, replacing him with Kim Sengupta. The Financial Times’
Baghdad stringer Steve Negus is remaining in Iraq, as is James Hider
for The Times.

The Sunday Telegraph’s Toby Harnden returned from Baghdad this week.

He
said: “The conditions are fairly severe and it can be very frustrating
that you can’t have much contact with ordinary Iraqis, but in these
conditions there’s quite a lot you can do if you are very careful. If
you avoid pre-arranged interviews and try not to stay anywhere more
than 20 minutes, you can do quite a lot.

“It will be a sad day if
we have to say we can’t cover a story as big as Iraq or we can only do
it by embedding with the military.”

Daily Mirror deputy editor
Conor Hanna said: “Obviously, Iraq and Baghdad, in particular, is very,
very dangerous for journalists at the moment and we would have to think
long and hard before sending one of our staff writers there. The recent
attempted kidnappings and this week’s bombing of the Palestine Hotel
have shown there are elements of the insurgency bent on targeting
journalists.”

But he added: “Any war zone is a potentially
dangerous environment in which to work and you have to accept there are
risks involved if you want to cover the story fully.”

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