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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

Rove Departs; Journalists Killed in Somalia; London's Fleet Street

Aired August 17, 2007 - 20:30:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Becky Anderson in London. This is CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
This week, the man dubbed the architect of the Bush administration says it's time to go. We look at the media's response to Karl Rove's planned departure.

Too afraid to go to work. Reporters in Somalia react with shock and anger after the killing of two prominent journalists.

And iconic photography. The exhibition profiling images taken during the heyday of London's Fleet Street.

Well, he was described not always flatteringly as "Bush's brain" and now the U.S. president's deputy chief of staff Karl Rove says he's stepping down at the end of the month. Now, it's the latest departure by senior staffers at the White House. In a moment, we'll look at the relationship between the Bush administration and the media during Rove's tenure and how it might change once he is gone.

First, though, this report from Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After 34 years by George W. Bush's side, his closest political advisor and friend is calling it quits.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: We've been friends for a long time. And we're still going to be friends.

KARL ROVE, BUSH ADVISOR: It has been the joy and the honor of a lifetime.

MALVEAUX: Karl Rove first met Mr. Bush in Texas in 1973 and 20 years later he ran his campaign for Texas governor. As an astute political operator, Rove was responsible for the hardball tactics that led to that win in 1994 and subsequently the White House in 2000 and 2004. He is the last member of Mr. Bush's inner circle to leave the White House. One of three Texas loyalists who helped launch his political career.

ROVE: Through it all you have remained the same man. Your integrity, character and decency have remained unchanged and inspiring.

MALVEAUX: His fingerprints are on just about everything. The successes and the failures. He is credited for making national security the defining issue that sealed Mr. Bush's reelection win in 2004. He is also praised for promoting the Republican base's so-called compassionate conservative agenda.

But Rove failed to deliver key legislation at the heart of Mr. Bush's domestic policy, reforming Social Security and immigration. As the president faces increasing pressure to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, some see Rove's departure as a significant blow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the end of the Bush presidency, absolutely. All lame ducks are lame ducks, this one with Karl Rove now turning out the lights is the most lame duck we've seen in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he's so smart, how come you lost Congress?

MALVEAUX: During the course of the past year, Rove has faced a number of setbacks including losing the Republican majority in Congress, being identified as one of the leakers of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, although he was cleared of any legal wrongdoing.

And more recently, becoming the focus of numerous Democratic-led congressional investigations.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, the relationship between the media and the Bush administration has often been a strained one. Journalists recently were called as witnesses at the trial of the former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Well, to discuss that relationship a little further, and how it might change once Karl Rove leaves his post I am joined from Washington by Eleanor Clift, a contributing editor with "Newsweek" and here in London by Anthony Grayling, contributing editor with "Prospect" magazine.

Eleanor, let me start with you. If you will. How would you characterize Karl Rove's influence on the dissemination of the message?

ELEANOR CLIFT, "NEWSWEEK": If I had to use one word, I would say "destructive." I think that he didn't know when to lay off the spinning and the campaign tactics and switch to governing for the good of the country. I think everything he did was to advance the cause of the Republican Party and sometimes that was at the expense of the country's overall interests.

I think the biggest mistake he made was to politicize the war and to see it as a campaign tool. And when the war began to go sour, he really didn't have anything to fall back on in terms of bipartisan support.

ANDERSON: Anthony, you may not agree with his style, you'll tell me whether you do or not, but he was certainly very successful, wasn't he?

ANTHONY GRAYLING, "PROSPECT": Well, he was successful up to a point. I mean, now people are having a retrospective on his influence over the last six years. The general consensus seems to be that it's been a failure and I think for the reasons that Eleanor has mentioned.

Karl Rove is par excellence in an election year. The whole of the first term, Bush's first term, was about winning the White House again for the second time. All the policy was dedicated to that.

As Eleanor says, this wasn't a White House for America, this was a White House for the Republican Party and perhaps for one segment of the Republican Party. And some of those birds are coming to roost now. We see Rove leaving office with question marks over his involvement.

He's often managed to keep out of the firing line and look as if he's not been directly involved with some of the things that have happened, but he, now it seems as if he's trying to duck out of being asked some serious questions about some recent happenings there.

All as a result of the fact that he's been a very, very political agent and not a statesman.

ANDERSON: Wasn't it though incumbent upon the media corps in the States and those internationally reporting the story of policy in the U.S. As the fourth estate, they might have been a little cleverer about the way that they disseminated the message.

If, as you've suggested, what Karl Rove was up to was wrong, why was the media so inclined to report a positive story for so long?

CLIFT: Well, the press corps likes winners and as long as he was winning I think the press corps accepted that what he was doing, while they were a little dubious and many people feel a little queasy, these were hardball tactics, all is fair in love and war and politics and I think the media went along with it.

Again, when these tactics stopped working, you begin to explore and then you explore what the impact has been on the country and it's hard to come away and look at Karl Rove's influence as being a positive.

ANDERSON: How, Anthony, do you think things will change now that Karl Rove is of course due to leave his post at the end of the month?

GRAYLING: Well, just before commenting on that, let me just add that I think the Washington press corps, there were two things that were why it was that Rove has managed to have such an easy ride. One is I think the press was taken by surprise by the tactics. In the past, what's happened is when a person who has come into office with a program, that program has been initiated, there's been always a very strong pressure towards bipartisanship in American politics in the past.

I mean, that ceased to be so during the `90s in the Clinton administration, but I think they were wrong footed by the fact that what Karl Rove was doing was trying to engineer a permanent Republican constituency out there to ensure that the Hill and the White House were both going to be Republican forever.

So he was busy electioneering and not really doing policy work that was serious and which addressed the needs of the country. And I think the press corps was taken by surprise by that. They didn't expect electioneering to continue. They thought the government was going to happen.

The other thing was 9/11 happened and the country was on a war footing and then actually in a war and it's very hard for a press corps to walk that line between being unpatriotic as some people would accuse it of being if it's too critical, and other hand really trying to unearth what lies behind that kind of policy decision, such an important one to the country as a whole.

So in those two ways the press corps itself was hampered.

But I don't think all the press corps can be blamed for that. There have been some pretty consistent operators all the way through who didn't like the smell that was coming out of Washington, out of the White House, right from the very beginning and there are some honorable names that one could mention in that connection.

ANDERSON: And let's talk about the influence of any man or woman who comes after Karl Rove. Can you imagine there's anybody out there at present who will manage the media and the relationship between the media corps and the White House like Karl Rove did?

GRAYLING: I think the media corps has learned lessons on this and when they look back on this six years and these two terms of Bush, they are going to say to themselves, we don't want to be in that position again, we've been wrong footed and we've been hamstrung and there were some very important lessons for us there. And already you begin to see, already in the analysis of the maneuverings of the Democratic candidates, you see a kind of coverage, kinds of questions, kinds of analysis which in fact has become unfamiliar in the last, I would say the last three presidential terms, the last of the Clinton term, also.

And this is a promising sound. So Karl Rove - I mean he is a very suspect character in very many ways, but most clouds have a bit of a silver lining and the silver lining her might be that the American press corps is not going to be fooled quite as easily next time.

ANDERSON: And with that we will leave you there. You thank you both very much indeed.

Eleanor Clift in Washington.

CLIFT: Thank you.

ANDERSON: And Anthony Grayling here in London.

GRAYLING: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS caught up in the violence in Somalia. Recent attacks killed two reporters. Now colleagues say they are too afraid to go to work. How can journalists protect themselves? That story after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS here on CNN with me, Becky Anderson.

Now, they're used to reporting the violence in Somalia. Now two journalists have become the story, killed in separate attacks in Mogadishu. Ali Iman Sharmarke, the general director of Somali media house HornAfrik died in a roadside bomb attack on August 11. He was returning home from the funeral of a murdered colleague shot earlier that day.

Well, no one has publicly taken responsibility for the killings, though journalists fear it's part of a wider campaign against them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): From today I am afraid to go to work as a journalist. And I can see now the target is local journalists being threatened and killed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, the International News Safety Institute says that 27 journalists and media staff have been killed in Somalia since 1993. And in this year alone there have been six fatalities, making it one of the worst years for journalists killed in Africa.

So, how can journalists protect themselves working in a country torn by a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands of others.

Well, to discuss that and the current conditions for reporters from the region, I'm joined here in the studio by Omar Faruk Osman, secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists and from Brussels, Sarah De Jong, the deputy director of the International News Safety Institute.

Both our guests are just back from Somalia after conducting a safety workshop there for 25 journalists.

Let's start with you, Sarah. Describe working conditions for journalists if you will in Somalia today.

SARAH DE JONG, INTERNATIONAL NEWS SAFETY INSTITUTE: Well, it's exceptionally dangerous as journalists are considered to be the enemy who is anybody within Somalia. They face constant risks as there are numerous combatants. It's a very complicated situation. Whatever story they would report on they're for sure to offend some side or another. They face constant arrests. They face constant intimidation. It's very difficult for them to get access to all of the stories that are worth reporting on.

And as a result we have now seen six journalists killed so far this year. Partly due to the actual conflict itself but also especially this past weekend's killings were definitely targeted killings.

ANDERSON: Yeah. The numbers, Omar, speak for themselves, don't they? It is an extremely dangerous situation and one that is covered now by local journalists, of course, as opposed to international news media organizations who believe it is too dangerous a situation to work in.

So how do you go about helping journalists protect themselves there?

OMAR FARUK OSMAN, NATIONAL UNION OF SOMALI JOURNALISTS: Well, the most important thing is that all people need to know, all journalists, all media people, either producers, either reporters, either photographers, or other media staffers, like drivers, they are all in danger and they are all in danger because of their noble work for the public.

And there are perpetrators who do not like the unique culture of media, which is to provide to the public independent, accurate and comprehensive information.

So what is important now is that as the number of the media is (inaudible) in Somalia, as the number of journalists are increased in Somalia, despite all this difficulty, despite all these dangers, despite the deliberate violence against journalists that comes daily, journalists are eager to serve the public.

And all this is happening and they are not getting the protections that they need because the media outlets do not have the financial capacity to provide protection and to provide escorts for - it is tough. And that is the main challenge that is now facing journalists.

And they are not liked by the perpetrators or the .

ANDERSON: This eagerness, of course, puts journalists, I guess, in more risks, Sarah, than perhaps in other places. This competition effectively to get the story covered by, as we've suggested, local journalists at this point. And are they being targeted? Is there evidence to suggest that journalists are specifically being targeted in Somalia today?

DE JONG: There are a couple of instance where it is - for example, an ambush on a convoy which may have journalists in the convoy and as a result they end up dead. However, most of these journalists are being murdered for what they are reporting on.

As you can imagine, this is a society which is in great turmoil and almost any subject remains highly sensitive. Imagine trying to report on women's rights in a country like this. Trying to report on the ongoing peace conference, peace and reconciliation conference, try to report on anything that any of the so-called clans are doing and it will make you a target.

ANDERSON: Omar, the UN Security Council has unanimously adopted what is known as Resolution 1738, that was of course last December, and that called for the protection of all journalists and media staff in conflict areas.

The problem is this. Does anybody adhere to that? Is there any use to these sort of resolutions?

OSMAN: Yeah, when it comes to these resolutions in Somalia, well, the number one, the local groups, the local protection (ph) groups which provide (ph) is the Transitional Federal Government which is a member of the United Nations, which is (inaudible) as the United Nations (ph) and what we are now seeking is that the transitional government investigate and prosecute the criminals who are behind the killing of journalists because as far as we know, attacks on journalists go unresolved.

And all criminals who kill innocent people, there are a number of criminals who kill innocent people in Mogadishu and somewhere (ph) will the transitional government investigate and prosecute it, that no crime against journalists is so far investigated and prosecuted. And that's what we want and all political groups must know that this resolution from the UN Security Council sends them a powerful message that there is the responsibility to protect journalists and other civilians.

ANDERSON: Let's just get your final thoughts on how you think things are progressing and just where you think improvements might be made for journalists. Your closing thoughts, if you will, Sarah?

DE JONG: Obviously I've just come back from the country. I've had the opportunity to spend really quality time with some of the journalists that I was able to meet at the journalist safety workshop and as befits journalists, there is always hope. They really are very, very dedicated. They are very courageous people and they're willing to do whatever it takes to bring not only the story to Somalia itself but especially to the international world.

OSMAN: Journalists in Somalia, they are working hard. They want to serve the public despite all difficulties, despite all dangers they are facing. They want to serve the public and they want to bring them the news accurately and impartially so that it can be part of resolving the crisis that has ravaged our country for so long.

So they have the courage and I must thank INSI, the International News Safety Institute which has provided a first time for safety training for Somali journalists because it is something that needs to be recognized, that journalists in Somalia are the most endangered now in Africa.

And when you see the (inaudible) journalists so far killed in the world, Somalia is number two after Iraq.

ANDERSON: And we're going to have to leave it there. We thank you very much indeed for joining us. Omar Faruk Osman and Sarah De Jong, thank you.

Well, still to come here on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, turning the lens on British press photography. Images taken during Fleet Street's heyday, profiled at an exhibition in London. We will take a tour of that after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. Long after the last major media outlet moved out, Fleet Street remains synonymous with the British press. Now, an exhibition profiling photography taken over the course of the 20th century is the focus of a showcase in London. We took a tour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: From then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting bomb damage to London in 1941 to the media confronting a fresh faced Lady Diana Spencer in 1980. Images celebrating British press photography during the Fleet Street years are on display at London's National Portrait Gallery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Photography comes into Fleet Street in 1904 with the "Daily Mirror." It's the first photographically illustrated newspaper. Popular newspapers were just beginning to take off.

ANDERSON: More than 75 works that span eight decades of profiles showing a now familiar media diet of celebrities, royalty, politicians and sports stars. The way photographers went about their work is also highlighted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes the way in which photographs are constructed is much more complex than a simple truth or fiction.

This is a photograph taken during the Blitz. Now, during the Blitz, the censors were very restrictive in the types of images that could be reproduced. The photographer, Fred Morley, it very recently transpired, overcame this problem by dressing up his assistant as a milkman and to present that picture of wartime defiance, the milkman cheerfully picks his way through the rubble.

If you block out the milkman and look at that surrounding scene, it's one of the most graphic depictions of wartime Blitz devastation that was ever passed by the censor.

ANDERSON: The nature of photography has changed with the times, as has Britain's newspaper industry, which started its move out of Fleet Street to larger, more modern facilities in the 1980s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fleet Street no longer exists as a sort of a entity or as a base for newspapers yet it is still a vote (ph) as that kind of collective description of British newspapers and within that it's also a shorthand for a certain style of British journalism and photojournalism.

ANDERSON: The National Portrait Gallery says it's the first British museum to focus on the history of press photography during Fleet Street's heyday. So just how do images snapped for newspaper pages translate into art?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are out of the context of their appearances sort of imagery (ph) pictures on a newspaper where the sort of print comes off in your hands to something sort of framed and placed on a gallery wall.

The spaces (ph) of art I'm not kind of too worried about. What they are are sometimes kind of fantastic, iconic kind of artifacts that are seared into our imaginations and memories and memories of these (ph) events.

ANDERSON: The exhibition runs until October.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And that wraps up this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS here on CNN. Do tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues. I'm Becky Anderson in London. Thank you for joining us.

END

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