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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

The New Bond; Journalists Not Safe in Iraq; Journalists Who Criticize Governments Given Some Protections

Aired November 17, 2006 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Here are the headlines on CNN. Wire reports saying two of five contractors kidnapped in southern Iraq have been freed. Coalition and Iraqi troops are searching for the remaining three. The four Americans and one Austrian were ambushed when their convoy was stopped at a fake checkpoint near Basra.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Twenty-one world leaders are gathered now in Hanoi for the Asia Pacific Economic Summit. U.S. President Bush promising a strong U.S. presence in the region, while economic power house China is trying to expand its influence as well.

Security issues also up for discussion including what's to be done about North Korea's nuclear program.

MCEDWARDS: The Sudanese government appears to have backed away from the deal to send U.N. peacekeeping troops into Darfur. Sudan's foreign minister says his nation did not agree to any kind of a mixed force with African union troops. He says the U.N. will only be providing technical assistance.

HOLMES: Segilene Royale has won the French Socialist party primary in her bid to become France's first female president. She trounced two male rivals, winning 60.6 percent of the vote. Royale would face conservative frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's vote, if as expected, Sarkozy wins his party's nomination.

MCEDWARDS: A British man who spent 18 years in a Pakistani jail is on a plane back to London. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf commuted Mirza Hussein's (ph) sentence and freed him. Hussein was accused of murdering a taxi driver in 1988. He was acquitted in a first trial, but was later convicted by an Islamic court and given a death sentence.

HOLMES: The Hamas led Palestinian cabinet could resign within days to pave the way for a unity government. That's according to a Palestinian negotiator quote by the Associated Press. A unity government could lead to the lifting of crippling economic sanctions imposed when Hamas assumed power in elections earlier this year. Two factions, Fatah and Hamas have already agreed on a candidate to be prime minister.

MCEDWARDS: And those are the latest headlines here on CNN. I'm Colleen McEdwards.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, next.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Becky Anderson in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories of the moment.

Well, this week, news by Iraqis and how delivering the headlines is becoming more of a risk to local journalists. Protecting reporters in exile, the efforts to set up a new safe house in Britain for journalists forced out of their homeland.

And Bond is back. How Daniel Craig wowed his critics.

Well, we begin this week in Iraq, where shootings, bombings, and kidnappings have become part of daily life, with sectarian violence on the increase to (INAUDIBLE) threat against journalist. Trying to cover it more often, Iraqi reporters are being caught in the crossfire.

In the past week, two reporters from the same newspaper died in separate attacks. And a cameraman was shot dead.

With the number of media casualties rising, is Iraq becoming too dangerous for local journalists? Are they more of a target? And does it compare for Western media representatives there in the country?

Well, to discuss this further, we're joined in the studio by the Iraqi journalist and founder of Digila Radio, Ahmad al-Rikaby. And CNN's correspondent in Baghdad, Michael Ware.

Michael, we'll get to you in a moment.

Let's, though, start with you, Ahmad. It has been suggested that the label "independent media" these days has become something of a death sentence. Has it?

AHMAD AL-RIKABY, JOURNALIST: Well, it is difficult to be independent. Independence mean belonging to no one. And everybody wants you to belong to their part. They can't understand that you could tell a story without actually being biased to this group or that group.

And there is always a big risk of being independent, because one day you will tell this story, which will anger, let's say, that militia. And the next day, you will anger the other side.

So you will have enemies on all sides.

ANDERSON: How difficult is it, Ahmad, to be an Iraqi journalist in Iraq?

AL-RIKABY: It is difficult to be an Iraqi. I mean, secondly, to be an Iraqi journalist. The Iraqi journalists are part of the Iraqi society. All Iraqis are becoming a possible target for the daily bombs, for the mortars we see raining on different parts of Baghdad these days.

But of course, they - because journalists seek troubles, because journalists seek the most difficult places, because journalists are looking for stories, of course, they're putting themselves in more risk than normal people.

The number - the high number of dead Iraqi journalists could tell enough, I mean, about the difficulty of being an Iraqi journalist. In our case and we consider ourselves very lucky compared to many others, we have lost three of our people.

Our station is becoming some sort of a hotel because the staff are afraid of traveling to their homes. And they prefer to spend most of their week actually inside the station. And we have dozens of people sleeping at the station.

ANDERSON: It's not, Michael is it, a story that is perhaps told often enough, the death of local journalists in Iraq? We tend as the international media to be more inclined to report on the kidnapping or death of, unfortunately, those from the Western media. Is what Ahmad is saying today ringing true with you?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Becky. I mean, to be an Iraqi journalist in this country at this time is indeed a noble act. They're very much putting themselves on a front line. Their lives hang in the balance every day that they operate.

And they're never safe, be it in the office or be it when they're going home. I mean, they're the targets of so many different interests here, of so many different players.

So for the Iraqi journalists, I mean, they have to live this. And there is no escape. And all journalists in this country, perhaps different from most other conflicts, I'm not saying as mutual observers. They're not hurt in terms of collateral damage. We see certainly from particularly al Qaeda and some of the Sunni extremists journalists that considered legitimate military targets.

And for American soldiers, in some parts of the country that I've been in, there are rules of engagement. Consider an Iraqi pointing a camera at them as a hostile act.

ANDERSON: Interesting stuff, Michael.

Ahmad, how significant is the political and religious dimension here? After all, most organizations, media organizations, are affiliated with religious and political parties, aren't they?

AL-RIKABY: We are witnessing a civil war. And whoever say Iraq is not witnessing a civil war is unrealistic, if not something else. Or a person with an agenda.

We are witnessing a civil war. And this civil war is conducted by different religious groups and different political groups. And of course, the media is an extension of this sectarian violence we are witnessing today.

In some cases, they are playing a very serious role. So it is part of this war.

ANDERSON: Michael, just how long do you believe Iraqi journalists will be prepared to go out and try and do their job? And do you sense a market worsening of the situation?

WARE: Very much is a worsening of the situation, both within the security environment itself broadly for the country. Indeed, to be an Iraqi is a dangerous occupation of its own, let alone for the journalists.

I see absolutely no glimmer of hope of any kind of improvement for Iraqi journalists. How long they will be able to sustain this remarkable will that they have shown to pursue this story and defy the risk is really an unanswerable question.

But from my personal experience from some of the individuals I've known, I believe that they'll continue regardless, as long as the story's here.

I mean, I have an Iraqi journalists who works with me. He was kidnapped by al Qaeda and held for two and a half months before he was finally released through a series of circumstances. And within days of his release, he was back wanting to go - return to the job.

ANDERSON: And that, Ahmad, is not the exception that proves the rule, is it? I mean, what Michael is describing there is going on, unfortunately, all the time?

AL-RIKABY: Most of them are heroes. I mean, I can't find another word. They are heroes. And I admire Iraqi journalists. We could criticize Iraqi media. We could criticize the journalism in Iraq because it's still a new experience. I mean, after 35 years of dictatorship, what do you expect? Suddenly, we have free press. Suddenly, we want people to be professionals like people who have served in free in democratic environments.

Anyway, they are doing their best. And they are risking their lives. And they are heroes. They are examples for many journalists who are complaining, yes, every day, despite all the luxury around them. They are working in the most difficult place on earth. They are (INAUDIBLE), if you want to say so. They are definitely expecting death every day.

ANDERSON: Thank you very much indeed for joining us, Ahmad, Michael, thank you.

Well up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, criticism of a regime. It could get some journalists more than a good headline. We'll explore how some rebuild lives and careers when they are forced to flee.

That's after this short break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. Now they risk persecution for the work that they do. Each year, dozens of journalists seek exile because they criticize or portray government in a negative light, but where do they go when they are forced out?

Well, soon, they could seek help by a safe house, which is being set up here in Britain. The Exiled Journalists Network is behind the refuge center based on a Caribbean organization which accommodates and supports up to 30 journalists a year.

Well, to find out more about it, and the plight of exiled journalists, I'm joined in the studio by Ibrahim Seaga-Shaw. He's a newspaper editor, driven out of his native Sierra Leone and now behind the new London sanctuary. And Forward Maisokwadzo, a reporter from Zimbabwe and coordinator of the Exiled Journalists Network. (INAUDIBLE) very much indeed for joining us.

Forward, just explain what happened to you in Zimbabwe before you fled?

FORWARD MAISOKWADZO, JOURNALIST: Well, I was working for the Zimbabwe independent newspaper, which is a privately owned newspaper. And the reason which marked my immediate departure from Zimbabwe was an incident that happened in 2002, when I was working for (INAUDIBLE) here together with my colleague on the evasion of farms in Zimbabwe.

And there was abducted by the so-called war veterans by then and was (INAUDIBLE) everything, to be honest. And it was a nasty incident.

Unfortunately, it was through the National (INAUDIBLE) of Journalists who brought me here, because there, we have this sort of historic, you know, a little head band. And there was just here hoping I was going to come back to Zimbabwe. But the situation deteriorated.

ANDERSON: You were regularly detained in Sierra Leone. You left, you fled, and went to France and indeed, came to Britain. What is the biggest problem for journalists like yourself and Forward, when you arrive in a country like this?

IBRAHIM SEAGA-SHAW, JOURNALIST: Yes, the biggest problem is that when we arrived here, we are faced with the challenge of accommodation for instance and coping with new environment.

So we - presently, we are coping with about five cases of our colleagues who have been refused by the home office, not because their cases are not genuine, but just because they have the help, the assistance, you know, to go along with their (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: You talk about five colleagues. How big a need is there for refuge for journalists who have been persecuted, who fled, or are just bound reason to leave the country?

SHAW: Yes, there's a very huge demand here. Because now, we have about 167 members of the EGL. These are exiled journalists, you know. We still have many out there who are not members of the EGL.

We, who are not on the - on our own kind of control, but we (INAUDIBLE) house to house them. They move to identify their needs. For instance, with - they need help. You know, like legal assistance, things like that, medical facilities, you know.

Some of them are traumatized. So we need to find psychotherapist to help them, you know, get back on their feet and practice journalism.

ANDERSON: One (INAUDIBLE) is what you hear about the plight of many refugees, whether they are journalists or not. The media portrayal of refugees, both of you I know, you have a problem with, of course. And part of what you're doing here is about changing the way that the media portrays refugees?

MAISOKWADZO: Yes, as a network, we really try to promote, you know, accuracy and fair representation of refugee issues. And it's a pity. For instance, here in the U.K. particularly, I blame the tabloid media for the sensationalized in terms of the way how refugee issues are portrayed. It is high because as a journalist myself, as a refugee, you know, I have gone through that process. And I do understand the difficulties at which people go through, and also the difficulties that we journalists come out with - sort of.

But I only challenge upon my colleagues to report accurately and fairly in terms of refugee issues.

ANDERSON: The Press Freedom House is - has been set up by the Exiled Journalists Network. Talk to me about the idea behind it, if you will, and how you are mobilizing support?

SHAW: Yes, well, actually, we - the first stage of the project, which I'm coordinating, is to kind of mobilize support, you know, from the media outlets in the U.K.

The idea is actually to replicate the good practice in firms, you know, which has worked quite well. And we think that if we - U.K. been the bastion of democracy, you know, if we can have it here actually to really help to foster democracy and press freedom, you know, all over the world.

ANDERSON: Do you think, Forward, that things are getting worse rather than better for journalists?

MAISOKWADZO: I think it's getting worse. You can actually see quite a number of countries that are all, you know, where press freedom doesn't exist. I can, you know, mention Zimbabwe. I can mention Sierra Leone, (INAUDIBLE), Pakistan. You know, the list is endless.

And what we are calling for is that sort of solid (INAUDIBLE) with exiled journalists who are here in the U.K. And we think by helping - you know, that extending that sort of solidarity, it will indirectly also help to address the press freedom issues in back home, as well as addressing having refugees here.

So sort of you know, we are killing stones with one, you know, two birds with one stone. At the same time, giving sanctuary to refugees. At the same time also how can we, you know, address or promote press freedom from a country's web freedom doesn't exist.

ANDERSON: Leave it there. We thank you very much indeed.

MAISOKWADZO: OK.

ANDERSON: Thank you for joining us.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, filling the shoes of a super spy. They can't be easy, especially when the media makes up its mind. The rise of Daniel Craig as 007. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS here on CNN.

Now it's no easy feat taking on with the world's most prestigious acting role. That of James Bond. Daniel Craig makes his debut as 007 in "Casino Royale." And it appears his performance has won over the media, despite early casting criticism. In fact, some critics now say that Craig could be the best Bond since Sean Connery.

Well, more on that turnaround in a moment. First, calling you to - with more on the birth of big blond Bond.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Cue that music and enter the new Bond, James Bond. Throw in the Bond babes, the action, the cars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't bother you killing those people?

NEWTON: And shake, don't stir.

JAMES BOND: Well, I wouldn't be very good at my job if it did.

NEWTON: It's been a bankable formula for almost 45 years, but this time, they're starting from scratch. And what a gamble. Daniel Craig is the new incarnation of 007 with a back to the basics Bond no gadget more Brit.

DANIEL CRAIG, ACTOR: (INAUDIBLE) as Bond, someone that, you know, we could sort of maybe - we could see the reality of and we could see somebody who got hurt, and got knocked down. And kind of how he stood up and dealt with things.

NEWTON: And deal he does. "Casino Royale" takes us back to Bond's first mission. 007 is younger, vulnerable, dare we even think it, not so invincible.

MARTIN CAMPBELL, DIRECTOR: He's got a lot of roughage as he makes mistakes. He bleeds. He falls in love. He's a much darker character. And in a word, we just wanted to make more realistic feet on the ground Bond.

NEWTON: Reality that hasn't exactly been Bond's currency with fans. Happy to see 007 in a world they could escape to, not the one they live in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The man is (INAUDIBLE). Private bankers of the world terrorists.

NEWTON: But this is the post 9/11 Bond. And producers felt it was time for a down to earth makeover and a new man. Daniel Craig was introduced as the new Bond in over the top style, coming out of the Thames and out of the blue for some, as tabs dubbed him, Bland, James Bland.

CRAIG: I was just a bit kind of stunned by it, was like well, how do I respond to that? And there's nothing, in fact, I could have done. There's no response except to just get on with it and do - make the movie.

NEWTON: Craig beefed up an and ante'd up doing many of his own stunts.

DAVID BLACK, JAMES BOND FAN CLUB: Well, (INAUDIBLE) it. A lot of people said at the beginning that perhaps he wasn't the man for the job. Well, they've been proved wrong, very wrong.

BOND: What about a drink in my place?

NEWTON: But can he carry this thing? Craig is Bond number six. But the last 007, Pierce Brosnan, in "Die Another Day" banked almost a half billion dollars worldwide.

So cue that music again. If this Bond wants to keep his job, he can't just be licensed to kill. He has to be proven to sell.

Paula Newton CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: So with rave reviews, did the media speak too soon when it criticized Daniel Craig's casting as the new 007? Wendy Ide, film critic for "The Times" joins me now in the studio.

Daniel Craig was caned in the press before this movie came out. And it appears that the media were wrong.

WENDY IDE, FILM CRITIC, THE TIMES: Well, absolutely. I mean, completely wrong. I think the thing is that the key factor we take Bond very seriously, rather more seriously than he actually deserves if we're going to be honest about it.

But it's like a national institution. So any kind of controversy, the media is immediately on it. And I'm guilty as well. The thing is, it was the fans who started this kind of casting controversy. They didn't like the fact that he's blond. They didn't like the fact that he's kind of ugly, or that's to say unconventionally attractive. They didn't think that he had the kind of - the suave in this character role.

ANDERSON: But what about this media fascination? Not just by the fans, but by the media as well. I mean, we've seen sort of boycott Bond sites and various other sort of fairly disgraceful, sort of, efforts to discredit Daniel Craig.

Why this fascination, do you think? You say it's a media - it's a British institution, but it's gotten more than that, isn't it?

IDE: Well, I actually have a theory. And this is probably completely unwarranted. I wonder whether the whole thing might be engineered a little bit by the production company, because, you know, the truism that there's no such thing as bad publicity, you know, is there for a reason.

Now I wonder whether - the stokes of the fire of controversy might have been stoked a little bit by the company, Eon, who produced it.

Now this probably isn't true, but, you know, we - I didn't know why we take Bond so seriously, because if you - we're going to be honest about it, the last four or five were pretty mediocre. And it was looking like a moribund franchise.

Now that's now been reinvigorated somewhat by this one.

ANDERSON: Daniel Craig was very reticent to do media interviews.

IDE: Yes.

ANDERSON: .to get involved. Even on the red carpet on the opening night, really sort of, as I say reticent. And I'm willing to speak. Why do you think that was?

IDE: Well, I know that he doesn't like doing that kind of thing. I mean, he's not most articulate man in the world. He doesn't really come across as, you know, someone who's going to love the attention.

He's an actor and he takes himself very seriously as an actor. As well he should, because he's good.

But I mean, part of an actor's job is to do that kind of - that side of it, to sell yourself, to sell your product.

ANDERSON: Forty-five years more than 20 movies, this is the 21st at this point. How much longer does Bond go on, do you think?

IDE: Well, if you'd spoken to me a month ago, I'd sell well good riddance to it. I can't really care. But as it (INAUDIBLE) I'm concerned. But having seen it, this whole reboot idea, you know, not actually remaking, rebooting it, taking it back to basics, it's kind of exciting me a little bit. It's a much better Bond movie than we've seen for a long time.

ANDERSON: And does Daniel Craig continues his Bond going forward, do you think?

IDE: I would like to see what he can do, because what we've seen here, and this not really something I've seen before, is James Bond getting a character up. He's a different person at the end of the film. And I think that, you know, for an actor is much more interesting than just kind of raising one eyebrow and making some little kind of glib comment every so often.

ANDERSON: Interesting stuff. We thank you very much indeed for joining us.

That is it for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Do tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

In Becky Anderson in London. Thank you for joining us.

END

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