NEW YORK – A top CNN executive kept quiet about some atrocities in Iraq not because the network wanted to protect access but because it worried about putting lives in danger, CNN said Monday.
Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive, revealed the incidents in an op-ed piece in The New York Times Friday headlined “The News We Kept to Ourselves.”
He said that in the mid-1990s, an Iraqi cameraman working for CNN was tortured because the government believed Jordan worked for the CIA . Reporting the story “would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk,” Jordan wrote.
CNN also learned from Kurds that a planned attack on network employees by Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq was thwarted a few months ago, he said.
Jordan was subsequently criticized by at least two columnists for soft-pedaling news on Iraq to maintain CNN’s access to the country by its reporters.
Franklin Foer, an associate editor of New Republic magazine, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Monday that he was suspicious of Jordan’s “outbreak of honesty.”
But Foer wrote the he didn’t see it as honesty. “If it were, Mr. Jordan wouldn’t be portraying CNN as Saddam’s victim. He’d be apologizing for its cooperation with Iraq’s erstwhile information ministry — and admitting that CNN policy hinders truthful coverage of dictatorships.”
The New York Post, owned by the same company that owns CNN competitor Fox News Channel, headlined Eric Fettemann’s column, “Craven News Network.”
CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson noted that CNN reporters have frequently been kicked out of Baghdad by angry authorities, most recently a few days after the start of the war.
“The decision not to report these particular events had nothing to do with access, and everything to do with keeping people from being killed as a result of our reporting,” she said.