Rajpal's Column

25th March 2001

Great feats of journalism in our time

By Rajpal Abeynayake
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Rarbara Crossette is supposed to be a good journalist. She is a visiting Professor of Journalism in one of the best known schools of journalism in the US. Her bio will say that she is "one of the best-known reporters in the New York Times. '' She is now the UN Bureau Chief of this newspaper. In 1991, she won the George Polk Award for foreign reporting for her coverage of the assassination of the former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. Therefore, she is a living embodiment of the fact that journalism awards do not mean a thing, at least as far as some journalists are concerned. 

Here is why: Recently, Barabara Crossette pretended to write a well thought out article about the two Bretton Woods institutions, in her paper. She wrote about the massive anti-IMF and anti World Bank protests which took place in Washington D.C. 

She then referred to the G 77 meeting of world leaders of developing countries which took place concurrently in Havana. The "Extra'' Magazine published in the US by FAIR, a media watch group, states that Crossette referred to the meeting vaguely as "a meeting of Third World leaders in the Cuban capital.''

Then she went on to make some observations which goes to show something about how stupid and superficial so called star award winning journalists can be. She quoted unspecified "experts'' as saying "nothing could be more irrelevant than global theories or rants against multi national companies.''

But more importantly, what she said after, should make even the most morose of you people crack up and want to hold your sides. She wrote that the "experts'' prescription for the world's ills is "making the Internet available at relatively low cost with the use of satellite telephones,'' along with vaguely defined "hands on projects'' conducted by multi national factories "that would help workers improve their lives.''

The Extra observes that "Crossette never actually talks to any of the world 's poor perhaps because of their lack of satellite telephones.''

Recently, this New York Times reporter's ( Bureau Chief 's actually ) record was closely examined. Crossette for instance, tried to play apologist for the US, when a film called "Genocide by Sanctions'' exposed the death of 1.25 million Iraqis as a direct result of a UN embargo in the country. 

Crossette wrote that the "coalition produced a graphic videotape of dying children in Iraq'', asserting that the then US Secretary of State was quoted, "out of context'' in the movie when she said famously that "the UN sanctions policy was worth the price.''

But Albright's 60 Minutes interview with Leslie Stahl, in fact, goes like this:

Stahl: We have heard that over half a million children have died (in Iraq). I mean that's more than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Albright: I think this is a very hard choice. But the price we think the price is worth it.

It is clear that Albright was speaking of dead children, and not in "any other context'' as Crossette has very falsely indicated. 

In fact, award winning Crossette is actually what we in Sri Lanka would call "a propagandist of state sponsored media''. That's because, being in the New York Times, ( a privately owned paper of course) she has directly distorted facts to justify the US government's pack of lies concerning the UN sanctions on Iraq. 

As quoted in Extra, Crossette wrote that : "The first major survey of child mortality in Iraq since the Persian Gulf War in 1991 has found that in areas of the country (Iraq) controlled by President Saddam Hussein, children under five are dying at twice the rate they were before the conflict, UNICEF said today. But, in Kurdish areas in the North, where the US officials run food and medical programs the health of children appears to have improved a bit.''

This apparent quote from UNICEF to show that Saddam Hussein is the actual cause of the deaths of infants in Iraq, was a classic case of deliberate distortion of facts because, Anupama Singh, the chief of UNICEF's Iraq office said:

.the UN's direct role in the north did not account for the widely different rates in infant mortality, especially after the ( UN's ) oil for food deal (with Iraq) went in to effect in 1997. 

Quoting Anupama Singh, the Financial Times reported, "(Singh) suggested that differences could be explained partly by the heavy presence since 1991 of the humanitarian agencies helping the Kurdish population, a factor that helped improve malnutrition rates. According to Ms Singh, the oil-for-food money going to the North includes a cash component , allowing the UN, for example, to train local authorities and more effectively implement and monitor programs. In the center and South under Iraqi regime control, no funds are allocated to ministries, for fear they would be used for more sinister purposes.''

All of which shows that it is factors other than Saddam Hussein which ultimately control how many children are dying in Iraq.

Barabara Crossette also painted a picture of Iraq stockpiling vital food and emergency supplies meant for civilians. In fact, Mr. Benon Sevan, the Executive Director of the oil-for-food program with Iraq, actually praised the Iraqis for their "openness to share information about the undistributed supplies'', and he cited several legitimate reasons why Iraq had not been able to distribute these supplies such as "supplies that failed quality testing.'' 

So much for the journalistic integrity of so called "star'' journalists who have even been feted by the South Asia Journalists Association!!! How servile we in this part of the world can be, when we consider journalists from the West or Western sponsored news agencies to be superior to ours. 

And dare anybody say we don't ..? (Just look at Colombo and you'll have the answer to that.)
ight of reply{tc "Right of reply"}

Referring to Susantha Goonat-ilake's article - "Ridding of Tigers within the State" that appeared in The Sunday Times of March 11, the Norwegian Embassy says:

Unfortunately Mr. Goonatilake has put forward statements regarding Norway that are not correct. The Embassy presumes that the reason for this is lack of information and would therefore take this opportunity to provide you with some useful information.

First, the journalist seems to believe that Norway voted "No" to an international recognition of the Day of Vesak in the UN. This is not correct.

In December 1999 a General Assembly Resolution regarding International recognition of the Day of Vesak was adopted, without voting, in the UN. The resolution recognises that the Day of the Full Moon in May each year is the day most sacred to Buddhists, who commemorate, on that day, the birth of the Buddha, his attainment of enlightenment and his passing away.

The resolution states that an appropriate arrangement shall be made for international observance of Vesak at United Nations Headquarters and other United Nations offices.

The resolution was put forward by Sri Lanka and many western countries supported Sri Lanka in this matter and therefore co-sponsored the resolution. Norway was one of these countries.

Secondly Mr. Goonatilake is of the opinion that the Norwegian Ambassador has planted soldiers in the Wanni and while he was a Redd Barna representative "settling upcountry Tamils in the jungles of Wanni to become Prabhakaran's present soldiers". It is hard for the Embassy to take such an insane allegation seriously. We will however limit ourselves to give you the following comment of the issue.

It is correct the Ambassador Jon Westborg was the resident representative for Redd Barna in Sri Lanka in the late seventies. After the post election ethnic violence in 1977 in the plantation area, Redd Barna together with some other organisations, assisted in resettling the Tamil population of Indian origin in the District of Mullaitivu. It is important to notice that this was done on an explicit request from the former president Jayewardene.

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