Scoop-hungry reporters pose as aid workers in Iraq'

Increased competition among journalists in Iraq is driving them to take unacceptable risks, according to Times correspondent Janine Di Giovanni.

Speaking at a Women in Journalism seminar at the Imperial War Museum, she condemned the actions of reporters in Iraq, who she said were taking great personal risks and adopting ethically dubious tactics, such as impersonating aid workers in order to get exclusives.

"I don't believe in scoops," she said. "We are here to bear witness and report the truth."

Di Giovanni said problems were being caused because of the huge number of reporters who had been sent to Iraq.

She called on editors not to forget the world's many other crisis-hit regions such as Liberia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Chechnya and Somalia.

Di Giovanni said she was the only Western journalist to witness the fall of Grozny in February 2000 and to report the "appalling atrocities" committed by Russian troops.

Colvin: 'bypass official channels'

Also speaking at the event was Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times, who lost an eye in a hand grenade attack while reporting on Sri Lanka in 2001. She urged journalists not to be afraid to bypass official channels to obtain news.

She said: "I have never ever got an interesting story out of a military briefing or out of an interview with a head of state – you have to go to a place and see what's happening on the ground."

Sunday Telegraph foreign editor Topaz Amoore spoke of the controversial decision made by the Telegraph Group titles to pull journalists out of Iraq just as the war was about to begin.

She said: "The decision was taken at the highest level – it was because my predecessor Con Coughlin had written a highly critical biography of Saddam Hussein. It was believed that they would be targeting Telegraph people – the high-up people made the decision to pull our people out."

She added: "At one level it was absolutely infuriating and professionally devastating – but there was some relief as well."

Former Express journalist Yvonne Ridley revealed she had converted to Islam since her ordeal in 2001, when she was held prisoner by the Taliban.

Ridley is currently based in Qatar working for the website of Arab-owned broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

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