Middle East

Journalism and the War in Iraq

Tariq Ayoub: Setting an Example

Mourners carry the coffin of Tariq Ayoub
Mourners carry the coffin of Tariq Ayoub, a reporter for the Jordan Times, Al-Ra'i, and Al-Jazeera killed by a U.S. bomb in Baghdad, at his funeral in Amman (Photo: Han Chuanhao/AFP).

The killing of our colleague, Jordanian journalist Tariq Ayoub, who worked for the Jordan Times, Al-Ra’i, and the Al-Jazeera network in Baghdad, sends a clear message, and it reveals the changes that are taking place in the Arab media, best represented by energetic Arab news agencies such as Al-Jazeera and the Abu Dhabi network. The work of these news organizations is a sign that the Arab media have shaken off the fear and impotence of previous Arab networks. They have persevered while other networks, embedded with U.S. forces, have been characterized by an absence of duty and by lack of journalistic professionalism that has made their reporting so compromised that it was drowned out by the thunder of mortar cannons. Al-Jazeera has revealed truths that furnished proof of the complicity of American media in obliterating facts and events pertaining to the U.S. military.

The blood of Tariq was fair game, as was the blood of other journalists working for Al-Jazeera and the Abu Dhabi network; both were bombed at the same time—followed by an attack on journalists in the Palestine Hotel, an attack that occurred probably because of its name. The message we take from Tariq’s killing makes CENTCOM spokesman Vincent Brooks’ statement seem quite ironic: “We bomb locations with precision, and we pay attention to locations where journalists are present.” In reality, Tariq’s killing demonstrates that the U.S. military preferred that Tariq and journalists like him ride on the back of an American tank, follow the troops around, eat and drink with them, and write in line with U.S. military desires. His death is a message directed to the remaining journalists and reporters who are still in the field, who are giving alternate perspectives on what is propagated by Bush, Rumsfeld, and others from the U.S. administration. Obviously, the U.S. government wants to establish the para-meters of its military campaign, the extent of the media coverage, and the psychological warfare on Iraq. Someone like Tariq exposed them—and was killed. [It makes] us wonder about the truth of the idea that “All who aren’t with us are against us,” which is the attitude of the Bush administration and its military forces. Regardless, Tariq died by U.S. bombs, like a martyr sealed in the blood of his writings and his message. His death should signify the seriousness of the current situation and the guilt of most other media, which still falsify and slant news in favor of, and orchestrated by, powerful interests.

Tariq Ayoub was a journalist who prevented the warmongers from completely narrating the story, and he strayed from the official Arab script dictated to Arab news agencies. He did so using no methods other than those of a real journalist: professionalism, independence, and being a witness on the ground.