Frustrations, Challenges of Covering Iraq War

ByABC News
February 22, 2007, 3:13 PM

Feb. 22, 2007 — -- Reporting in Iraq has become one of the most challenging and, at times, frustrating jobs in journalism anywhere. We are in the middle of the biggest story in the world today, and yet because of the extreme restrictions on our movement and ability to talk to Iraqis, we are like travelers in a sandstorm trying to make out the vague outline of things around us without being able to see anything clearly.

We will hear reports that some top insurgent leader has been injured, even killed -- but how can we verify the information?

We are usually unable to travel to the location in question, the officials who released the information will not give his name and local people are generally too scared to talk to reporters, even on the phone.

We then hear that some neighborhood is subject to ethnic cleansing by Shiites against Sunnis, or Sunnis against Shiites -- but how can we document this?

If we send a Shiite camera crew they run the risk of being shot by Sunni insurgents, and if we send a Sunni camera crew they face a similar risk from the Shiite death squads. And for those of us who are foreigners reporting in Iraq, we run the risk of being kidnapped or shot by either side.

According to the Iraq Coalition casualty count, 111 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the invasion in 2003. Today, only the very largest news organizations maintain a presence in Baghdad, as the level of security that is necessary is so expensive that smaller media outlets simply cannot afford to base people in Baghdad.

Those journalists who are in Baghdad cannot drive outside the city, and there are many neighborhoods in the city that are now too dangerous to visit. So while in Baghdad, we spend a lot of time inside our heavily guarded compounds, and rely to a large extent on our very brave and loyal Iraqi employees to go out and gather what news they can.