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The Media Balance Between Truth and Access

The media prides itself on keeping public officials honest but too seldom steps back to draw lessons from their own mistakes.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, CNN’s chief news executive Eason Jordan penned a New York Times op-ed describing the self-censorship in which CNN engaged in order to maintain access to Iraq. Commentators wrung their hands and rightly castigated CNN, but the real scandal was that no one asked what else CNN and other major media outlets were censoring.

Libya, too, presents opportunities for media introspection. Consider this Washington Post profile of Saif Qaddafi. Will Washington Post editors and Africa Bureau chief Sudarsan Raghavan consider how they were spun by a man for whom reform was simply an outfit to wear when venturing out to meet Americans and Europeans? Did the Washington Post, like Eason Jordan’s CNN, simply self-censor and spin for access?

Perhaps it’s also time to dispense with the idea that European education gives the progeny of Arab autocrats — be they Saif Qaddafi or Bashar al-Assad — liberalism. Rather, it gives them Western style and skills necessary to better deceive Western audiences.


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