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Look at Ethics of Covert Journalism; Iraq's Government Cracks Down on Press; Pope's Controversial Visit to Turkey

Aired December 1, 2006 - 14:00:00   ET


JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The headlines on CNN. Hundreds of thousands of people rallied Friday in Beirut in a huge peaceful show of force organized by Hezbollah. The aim - to replace the current Western backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who is reported to be tending to business as usual.
Christian politician and former military leader Michel Aoun was among those addressing the immense crowd.


MICHAEL AOUN, FREE PATRIOTIC MOVEMENT (through translator): When we criticize people today, we're not criticizing the Sunni community. We are criticizing the prime minister, who in his performance, have made many mistakes and should resign his office to have another Sunni in his place.


MANN: Hours later, this is the scene now. You're looking at live pictures, as the remnants of that enormous crowd remains defiantly in the streets outside the prime minister's office, vowing to continue civil disobedience until the government of Fouad Siniora resigns.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Tears and whistles accompanied Felipe Calderon, as he took power as Mexico's president. Surrounded by body guards and flanked by outgoing President Vicente Fox. Calderon quickly declared the oath of office and then was rushed out of the chamber in an even more chaotic scene earlier, as members of the Mexican congress threw punches and chairs in protest. The opposition still insists that he stole last July's election.

MANN: Doctors resorted to what were described as "extreme safety precautions" to perform an autopsy on the body of Alexander Litvinenko. The former Russian spy died November 23rd. Officials say they found radioactive polonium 210 in his urine. The investigation is turning traces of radioactivity at several places in London and aboard some passenger aircraft. Several British Airways jets linked to the investigation has been cleared to fly again.

Also in the latest development, a second person has tested positive for the radioactive substance.

MCEDWARDS: The ongoing search for peace in Iraq. President George W. Bush will meet Monday with an influential Iraqi Shi'ite leader. An aid to Abdul Aziz al Hakim says the politician will travel to the U.S. in the next few days. Al Hakim heads the supreme council for the Islamic revolution in Iraq. And he does have close ties to Iran.

And those are the latest headlines for you here on CNN. I'm Colleen McEdwards.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories of the moment.

This week, guilty of wiretapping. A British tabloid journalist admits targeting the royal family. We look at the ethics of covert journalism and discuss why reporters might cross the line.

Plus, Iraq's government cracks down on the press, accusing it of fueling sectarian violence. And the pope's controversial visit to Turkey. Has it improved his image in the Muslim world? We'll compare media coverage in Italy and Turkey.

But first, he admits intercepting voice messages for Britain's Prince William and tapping the phones of palace staff. The lengths to which tabloid journalist Clive Goodman went to get the scoop has brought privacy issues sharply into focus.

ITV News reporter Paul Davies has the story.


PAUL DAVIES, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the competitive world of the tabloids, the pressure is always on to find the most sensational headline, the most exclusive stories. The lengths some journalists will go to to get their scoop, highlighted by this case.

Clive Goodman was royal editor of the News of the World, a man with a reputation for big exclusives. Only now, he's had to tell an old bailey court the underhand practices he employed to get his stories.

Goodman admitted hacking into the royal family's mobile phone messages, intercepting voice mail for key aids of Prince William, Prince Harry, and the Prince of Wales.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To listen to your messages, key 2.

DAVIES: He was able to open the royal voice mail, using what's known as a default code number, a number routinely used by telephone companies until the subscriber elects to choose their own personal and secure code.

Suspicion fell on Goodman last year, after a message left on the royal voice mail by ITV News political editor Tom Bradby became the basis of a "News of the World" story about Prince William.

(on camera): In a statement read to the court, Clive Goodman's barrister said on behalf of his client, he wanted to apologize to the members of the royal household, and to Prince Harry, Prince William, and the Prince of Wales. He said his client accepted there had been a gross invasion of privacy here.

(voice-over): The editor of "The News of the World" has repeated that apology, saying Clive Goodman's actions were entirely wrong. But this former tabloid journalist told me Goodman was not alone.

MIKE JARVIS, FORMER NEWS OF THE WORLD JOURNALIST: I think everybody was on top, because certainly everybody who works on a Sunday tabloid will be mopping their brow and saying there for the grace of God go I. And it's certainly something that goes on. It's certainly something that every reporter knows about. If they don't use these tactics themselves, they certainly know a colleague who does.

DAVIES: Clive Goodman and a private investigator who's also pleaded guilty to intercepting royal telephone messages will return to the old bailey early next year to be sentenced.

Paul Davies, ITV News.


SWEENEY: For more on the implications of this, I'm joined by ITN's Tom Bradby, who featured in that report and media commentator Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post."

Tom, your personal involvement in this, were you surprised?

TOM BRADBY, ITN: I wasn't totally surprised. As I've sort of explained over the past week, you know, what happened was I had this private conversation with William. It ended up in the newspapers.

But when I sat down and chatted to him, and we were discussing how it could have come out, I remembered from my time as royal correspondent a few years ago that I'd heard during that period that during the Diana years, that this was absolutely rampant.

So naturally, it occurred to me as one possibility. But I think there's absolutely no doubt this has been going on for years and years and years. And I think probably lies behind 90 percent of royal - big royal scoops and probably many other stories as well.

SWEENEY: Well, there's talk, Howard, over here in Britain now that Clarence House might try and push for legal reforms if the media industry and the press cannot reform itself. What are the privacy laws like in the United States?

HOWARD KURTZ, WASHINGTON POST: They vary state by state. But basically, you can't even tape record in many states a conversation with somebody you're talking to, somebody who knows that you're on the phone with them, without having that person's permission. And journalism fired a prosecutor for doing so. So we're very sensitive to privacy here.

I mean, I do think that, you know, there's this great lust to get the story, to get the scoop that many of us in this profession get caught up in. It's part of the DNA. But to go that extra step and actually participate in any kind of wiretapping scheme, you know, does a great deal to discredit a profession that already is looked down upon by a lot of people, because people think that will just do anything, that we don't care about the law as long as we can get that all important exclusive.

SWEENEY: Of course, here in Britain, everybody talks about what is in the public interest. In your view, Tom Bradby, is there a line that should not be crossed?

BRADBY: Oh, I think the line is very, very clear. I mean, if you work for a Sunday tabloid and you're after, you know, effectively a - I mean, if you've got an investigation into wrongdoing that you can justify on those grounds, that's a totally different thing.

But we all know that's what we're talking about here. We're talking about tittle tattle and gossip that sells Sunday newspapers. That is a huge business. That's why journalists have been driven to do this, and I suspect, have been driven to do it for many years in huge numbers.

And I'm highly skeptical about whether anything will change. I don't think you'll find too many tabloid journalists in Britain doing it today after what's happened.

But I think it'll simply be exported overseas. You know, you might find an enterprising tabloid journalist going and living, you know, in some country which doesn't have this regulation and just tapping into there, and then providing the information to a Sunday tabloid that maybe doesn't ask too many questions about where it came from.

SWEENEY: I mean, Howard Kurtz, the media and the press in particular in the United States has come in for a lot of criticism over the last number of years, particularly since Iraq. But from - if I could ask you about your knowledge of British tabloids, compared with American tabloids, who would you deem to be the more assertive, put it that way?

KURTZ: British tabloids, hands down, you know, in terms of aggressiveness, audaciousness, boldness. You know, the British tabloids, and sometimes that leaks back to the mainstream media organizations here, which is a very nice situation for us. We have clean hands. We didn't do anything untoward, but we get to reap the benefits by writing about what those crazy tabloids in London are doing.

But it seems to me that they consistently push the envelope, not just on things like eavesdropping, but in terms of pay for information, in terms of developing sources, like a butler or somebody else who was a servant from the royal family.

I mean, the American tabloids do a pretty good job. But boy, Fleet Street really knows how to push the envelope. And I guess it's more accepted in the British culture, some of these aggressive tactics that would be much more frowned upon here in the States.

SWEENEY: Tom Bradby, you know, what are the implications of this particular story for the tabloids? I mean, are there any implications? Do you think that it's just another level of competitiveness that's been reached?

BRADBY: Oh, no, I think they're immense implications. I think this was actually a huge story in Britain this week, much bigger than most people realize. Funnily enough, the tabloids are their key to cover it.

I mean, yes, tabloids are big business. If you look back over the last year, particularly the Sunday tabloids, and you wonder about where some of their really big scoops came from, I'm pretty certain this is where they came from, a lot of them.

And if that is denied to them, and let's be honest, tabloid journalists are not going to be doing this in this country if they've ever been tempted to before, then you know, that's going to have a really big impact on their business.

I'm skeptical, as I said, about how much we're really change in the long term. We said after Diana, you know, everything would be different. Well, it hasn't been different. I mean, if you, you know, Harry and William in this country they enjoy a certain amount of protection, but certainly when it comes to their girlfriends, certainly when it comes to them going abroad, and some of the stuff that goes on, you know, really is stranger than fiction. The attempts people make to try and get a hold of them and what they're doing.

SWEENEY: All right, so you have to leave it there. Howard Kurtz in Washington, thank you very much indeed. Tom Bradby here in London, thank you as well.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, once they shut down al Jazeera in Baghdad, accusing it of being a mouthpiece for insurgents. Now Iraqi officials are curtailing almost all media, accusing some of breaking the will of Iraqis in the fight against terrorism. The view from London and Baghdad after this break.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. In Iraq, journalists are facing further restrictions. The government has banned almost all coverage in the war torn country's parliament, effectively causing a media blackout on political debate.

Networks stand accused of inflaming the conflict by their coverage. And now, the government is threatening to prosecute biased reporting.

President Jilal Talibani recently blamed the media for inciting a spate of violence. To this discuss this control of the press, I'm joined in the studio by Iraqi journalist Ahmad al Rikaby, and in Baghdad by CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

Nic, let me turn to you first. What in the government's view constitutes biased reporting?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reporting that inflames the situation. What's been discussed here is the fact that politicians are often making country claims about the same situation to different news channels, and that after some particularly volatile events, the big bombing in Satr City, recently the appeals that have gone out and comments that have gone out on television stations here have inflamed passions. And there's even been, according to some politicians, erroneous reporting, erroneous reporting about militias breaking into people's houses and burning them in those houses. And this appears to be what the government is at the heart of, what the government is trying to crack down on, Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: Is there a broad sense that the government has that the media in general is inciting violence? Or are there very clear guidelines that the government has laid out for what President Talibani says is inciting violence?

ROBERTSON: Well, as far as the sort of closing down of the coverage within the parliament here, except for the state broadcast al Iraq here, it appears to be any kind of debate is not open for coverage by the other media here. And there are plenty of television stations here.

For example, there's one TV station here that broadcast day and night, nothing but insurgent videos. Why hasn't that been closed down? The government's tried to close it down. That clearly falls outside of any kind of guidelines they might have.

But it's still on the air. So it - perhaps it's not just a matter of what are the guidelines in closing people down. It's they don't appear able to close them down in some instances, Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: Let me turn to Ahmad al Rikaby here in the studio. You have, among interests, a radio station in Baghdad. Are you merely bound from broadcasting what is said in parliament in terms of actual debate? Or are you banned from actually covering any of the debate in parliament?

AHMAD AL RIKABY, IRAQI JOURNALIST: Well, it seems that journalists are not allowed at all to get inside the parliament. And we are actually trying to speak to the head of the parliament, the parliament speaker now.

We were trying this for the last three days. It didn't work so far. So we would like to know what's the latest and where the limits go.

SWEENEY: I mean, can you discuss what the state broadcaster broadcasts from parliament?

RIKABY: Of course we could discuss this, but I mean, we are very irritated anyway. The problem is, yes, I do agree with what Nic said that some media in Iraq is actually inflaming and inciting and posing some problems.

But at the same time, this is very undemocratic. The problem is not the media itself. The problem is that some people who are sitting in the parliament. This is where the problem well lies. The problem is that those statements actually made by some members of the parliament, I mean, this one not those statements because those member of parliament will still be able to give actually statements to the media after they leave the.


RIKABY: .building of the parliament.

So this would not put an end for the problem in my opinion.

SWEENEY: And Nic Robertson, is this then an act of desperation on the part of the government that seeks to ban certain sections of the media in a week when there is huge debate, particularly in the United States about whether the term `civil war' can be used by broadcasters in print media?

ROBERTSON: I think absolutely it reflects that the dire straits that this country is in, that the government is - that was founded, we understand, on the basis of democracy and freedom of speech and people's access to hear what their politicians are saying.

One official said that they'd rather sacrifice the freedom of speech to save the blood of the people in the country. The reality is this situation is incredibly volatile. People here in their homes are incredibly scared. And the government appears to be now taking increasingly desperate measures to try and find any way to tamp down the violence.

The reality is is that a lot of the reporting really is reporting about the violence that happens. However, when there have been big events happen here, we've seen several times going back to February earlier this year in the blowing of an important Shi'ia shrine in Samarra, then there were calls for people to come out on the street and take revenge.

This is what the government's trying to stop. But what we're seeing now is really a very, very desperate measure and a very, very desperate time, Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: What is your prognosis about the evolution of press freedoms in Iraq, particularly against the current climate backdrop?

RIKABY: Well, I mean, on the surface, we have the freedom. But the real definition in my opinion of what's happening is chaos. We have media chaos. That's what we have currently in Iraq.

Unfortunately, yes, we - there are media institutes which has no understanding for the word `freedom' and how to behave and how to deal with this freedom.

This is one serious problem that we have today in Iraq.

SWEENEY: All right, we have to leave it there. Nic Robertson in Baghdad, Ahmad al Rikaby here in London, thank you both very much for joining us.

Up next, a clash of religions was predicted. We examine whether the media feared the worst for the pope's visit to Turkey at the expense of covering the real story. Stay with us.


SWEENEY: It's generated headlines around the world, billed by some as a clash of civilizations.

The pope's visit to Turkey has come under intense scrutiny after he sparked anger in the Muslim world earlier this year by quoting negative comments on Islam.

Just what kind of coverage has the trip received? And has it improved his public image? To discuss this further, I'm joined from Istanbul by veteran CNN head journalist Reha Erus, Alberto Romagnoli, our news editor at Ride Television, Italy's state broadcaster, and Ruth Gledhill, religious correspondent at "The Times."

If I could turn to you first, Reha in Turkey. How has the media been covering the visit of the pope there?

REHA ERUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, everything is so far, so good here. And the media is with sympathy to the pope now, after the unfortunate things that he said in Germany.

Now coming in Turkey and Ankora, and going to Muslim of (INAUDIBLE) was very good for him. I think the pope became pope - really pope in Turkey before he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for two years. But now he has a good (INAUDIBLE) of the Islamic world.

The thing that he said, mainly yesterday, that I love Turkey, I love the church. And that became very, very good thing for the Vatican for the Catholic religion.

SWEENEY: Albert Romagnoli in Rome, let me ask you, how much focus has this trip been getting? How much coverage has it been getting in Italy?

ALBERT ROMAGNOLI, FOREIGN EDITOR, RAI: This is definitely a big story for Italian media. It has been a front page story at the beginning of every newscast for a week.

I would say that Italian people are more interested to see the attitude of the Turks towards the pope, because the story is mixed with story of Turkey joining the European Union. So it's kind of a test.

If the pope is welcome with the idea that OK, we can have a dialogue with Muslim country, we can think about all the Muslim countries joining European Union.

Otherwise, if things are difficult, if we - you cannot dialogue - have a dialogue with the pope. Well, maybe it's difficult to have a dialogue with the European country, with Christian roots like Italy is.

SWEENEY: Ruth Gledhill, that raises an interesting point. It was thought that this pope was rather against Turkey's membership of the European Union. And it would seem in the last few days, that that he has moved to the opposite view. And it really does bring about what one might see as a schism, that schism that's reflected in Turkey between the secular and the religious?

RUTH GLEDHILL, RELIGIOUS EDITOR, THE TIMES: The divide is there in many areas. For example, one of the reasons the Regensburg address was so damaging towards relations with the Islamic world and - regarding Turkey was because Catholicism and Islam have, in recent years, been united in the battle against secularism. And Turkey is a secular state. And this is the battle that's been reflected within Turkey itself.

SWEENEY: We might come back to that in just a moment, but Albert in Rome, since Ruth Gledhill brings up the Vatican, and the Vatican press office, let me ask you. How influential has the Vatican press office been or how active has it been in cultivating the image of this pope, particularly during this trip to Turkey?

ROMAGNOLI: I think the issue is that this pope is a professor. He talks like an intellectual. And sometimes, it's difficult to get - to put all the meaning in just a few lines.

From the beginning of this trip, I would say that he is trying to communicate even with just like John Paul II was doing. One day, he was waving a Turkish flag. He is trying to get near to the people or near to the symbols of the places he's visiting.

So he can easily better understood even in pictures. And probably this pope is not as good as John Paul II was in facing the media. John Paul II was traveling all over the world many times a year. This pope is doing very few trips. So is not - we are not familiar with him.

SWEENEY: Reha Erus in Turkey, let me quote from one of the Turkish newspapers, Yassan Atta writing in "Yeni Safak" says, "There has always been opposition in Turkey to the visit of any Pope." And that "in the past, it was religious feelings which motivated the opposition," but now it's "nationalist issues have come to the fore."

Is that a fair representation of how the pope's trip has been covered and gone down in Turkey?

ERUS: As I was saying, in the past two popes came to Turkey, and nothing happened here before. But I think for - at this time, the pope had that unfortunate things that he said, speeches that he made in Germany, he made very angry the Turks and the Islamic world.

That's why I think - before coming to Turkey, some people, especially the radical section, didn't like him to come to Turkey. And now, after he came here, and he said the good things about Turkey and waving a good flag like my colleague from Rome told us, that waving a flag was something that - a symbol. And that showed that he became more charismatic. He had - he worked in his home. He had done well his homework before coming to Turkey.

He knew - maybe he didn't know much about Islamic world. Now he knows more things about Islamic world.

SWEENEY: Even the term `clash of civilizations' about this trip implies, obviously, a certain sensitivity. Has it been overhyped?

GLEDHILL: Well, I think that the Regensburg address indicated how frightened and close the world is to such a clash of civilizations. Nobody wants another crusade. But the Muslim world, especially after 9/11, is terrified of a massive upsurge in Islamaphobia, possibly fueled by Christian leaders.

The present pope is not such a charismatic man, but he has extraordinary resolution. I was with him in Rome last week, actually, with the Archbishop of Canterbury. And that I got this impression of this massively resolute man, this strong man, this peerless intellectual really, but also a man who when I saw him celebrating - leading prayers in the back part of the Vatican, a man of amazing vulnerability, too.

So his - this man is going into a very different world. And it's hyper sensitive world. And he has to be - he has to (INAUDIBLE). And I think the overall outcome of this trip has been fantastically positive.

SWEENEY: All right, we have to leave it there. We're out of time. Ruth Gledhill here in the studio, thank you very much. Gentlemen, both in Rome and in Turkey, thank you also for joining us.

And that's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.



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