Ivo Skoric on Wed, 27 Oct 1999 19:36:33 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> US media ingore expose on chinese embassy bombing

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Subject: FAIR-L: U.S. Media Overlook Expose on Chinese Embassy Bombing

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting Media analysis, critiques and news

ACTION ALERT:  U.S. Media Overlook Expose on Chinese Embassy Bombing

October 22, 1999

A detailed investigative article in the October 17 London Observer
reported that NATO deliberately bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade
last May, after discovering that the embassy was relaying Yugoslav
military radio signals.

The report contradicted the public assurances of NATO leaders that the
missile attack had been an accident. The Observer's sources included "a
flight controller operating in Naples, an intelligence officer monitoring
Yugoslav radio traffic from Macedonia and a senior [NATO] headquarters
officer in Brussels."

So far, the reaction in the mainstream U.S. media has been a deafening
silence. To date, none of America's three major network evening news
programs has mentioned the Observer's findings.  Neither has the New York
Times or USA Today, even though the story was covered by AP, Reuters and
other major wires. The Washington Post relegated the story to a 90-word
news brief in its "World Briefing" (10/18/99), under the headline "NATO
Denies Story on Embassy Bombing."

By contrast, the story appeared in England not only in the Observer and
its sister paper, the Guardian (10/17/99), but also in their leading
rival, the Times of London, which ran a follow-up article on the official
reaction the next day (10/18/99). The Globe and Mail, Canada's most
prestigious paper, ran the full Reuters account prominently in its
international section (10/18/99). So did the Times of India, the Sydney
Morning Herald and the Irish Times (all 10/18/99).  The prominent Danish
daily Politiken, which collaborated with the Observer on the
investigation, was on strike, but ran the story on its website. 

The difference in perspective with which American journalists have greeted
this story can be observed by comparing the headlines over several
international news agencies' dispatches about the Observer expose:

Reuters (U.K.): "NATO Bombed Chinese Embassy Deliberately--UK Paper" 

Agence France Presse (France): "NATO Bombed Chinese Embassy Deliberately: 
Report" (10/18/99).

Deutche Presse-Agentur (Germany): "NATO Bombed Chinese Embassy
Deliberately, Observer Claims" (10/18/99).

Associated Press (U.S.):  "NATO Denies Deliberate Embassy Hit." 

The U.S. media may today be uninterested in evidence that the attack was
deliberate, but they had no trouble last May accepting NATO's explanation
that the bombing was a mistake. Even before U.S. officials emerged with a
full account of how the embassy could have been "mistakenly" targeted--an
"outdated map" of Belgrade played a prominent role in the official
explanation--the U.S. media began regularly referring, without evidence,
to the "accidental bombing" of the embassy. 

When Chinese officials disputed the U.S. account, protesting that the
attack could not have been a mistake, establishment journalists
immediately took sides in this debate. New York Times diplomatic
correspondent Jane Perlez (5/10/99) referred to "the accidental bombing,
portrayed in China as deliberate." A Washington Post editorial (5/17/99) 
that discussed China's reaction to "NATO's unintentional bombing of
China's embassy" was indignant that the official Chinese press was
"milking the bombing for propaganda value" by reporting that the missile
strike had been intentional. USA Today continues to refer to the
"accidental bombing" of the embassy (10/20/99).

Since the New York Times hasn't published the new information about the
embassy attack, it's unclear whether the paper stands by its earlier
reporting. Since May 7, the Times has referred to the "accidental bombing
of the Chinese embassy" a total of 20 times. The last reference was in its
October 17 edition--the day the Observer published its report. Since then,
the Times has run an AP article on the Chinese president's visit to London
(10/19/99), which mentioned only that "China broke off talks with
Washington and the European Union after NATO bombed the Chinese embassy in
Yugoslavia"--taking no stand on the intention behind the attack.

Even before the Observer's expose, there was no lack of evidence that
China's suspicions were correct. A few days after the bombing, German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder took the highly unusual step of publicly
questioning NATO's explanation of the attack. "The explanation given by
NATO on the tragic incident so far is far from enough and the Chinese
government has every reason to demand a comprehensive, thorough, and
in-depth investigation into the incident and affix the responsibility for
it,"  Schroeder said in Beijing (AFP, 5/12/99). 

The London Daily Telegraph reported in June (6/27/99) that NATO's
precision-guided missiles "carefully singled out the most sensitive
section of the embassy complex for attack"--the intelligence directorate. 
"That's exactly why they don't buy our explanation," a Pentagon official
was quoted as saying.

In July, CIA director George Tenet testified in Congress that out of the
900 targets struck by NATO during the three-month bombing campaign, only
one was developed by the CIA: the Chinese Embassy (AP, 7/22/99).

What is perhaps most baffling about the major news outlets' indifference
to the Chinese embassy story is that the same outlets regularly devote a
great deal of attention to other stories concerning China and its
relations with the U.S. Elite media report extensively on China's possible
entry into the World Trade Organization, the political struggle between
its "reformers" and conservatives, and allegations of Chinese nuclear
spying and electoral influence-buying in the U.S. The op-ed pages abound
with debates about China's intentions toward America: Is the country a
threat to be contained or an opportunity for trade and investment?

The Times of London noted in an October 21 book review that "the bombing
of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade might yet turn out to be an important
episode in a new Cold War." One might think that a well-sourced
investigative article in a respected foreign daily providing evidence that
the bombing was deliberate would be viewed by editors in the United States
with the same interest they have shown in other aspects of China's
relations with the West.

ACTION: Please call national and local media and ask them to follow up on
the Observer's investigation of the China embassy bombing. Mention that
news outlets should present the idea that the embassy was bombed by
accident as a claim made by NATO, not an objective fact.

New York Times Andrew Rosenthal Foreign Editor mailto:andyr@nytimes.com

Washington Post Jim Hoagland Chief Foreign Correspondent

USA Today Douglas Stanglin World Editor mailto:dstanglin@usatoday.com


Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to
everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate
documented example of media bias or censorship. All messages to the
'FAIR-L' list will be forwarded to the editor of the list. 

Also, please send copies of email correspondence, including any responses,
to us at: fair@fair.org . 

Feel free to spread this message around. Put it on conferences where it is
appropriate. We depend on word of mouth to get our message out, so please
let others know about FAIR and this mailing list. 

Don't miss a single e-mail from FAIR-L. 

You can subscribe to FAIR-L at our web site: 
http://www.fair.org/emaillist.html Or, you can send a "subscribe FAIR-L
enter your full name"  command to LISTSERV@AMERICAN.EDU. 

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net