The Iraq war inquiry: time to call the media witnesses?

As an exercise in self-criticism the admissions by the New York Times and the Washington Post that their reporting on the build up to war in Iraq was "not as rigorous as it should have been" provoked a great deal of disscussion and got a mixed response:

Modified Come Down at the New York TImes; Now They Tell Us;   NYT "took a big step to restoring its reputation," says Evans

But even if the admission of "institutional" flaws by the public editor of the New York Times didn’t go far enough for some, it represents a level of (public) self-examination that has largely been lacking in the UK.

The Mirror apologised after it published fake photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqis and the BBC governors issued an apology after its claims that Downing Street "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq’s illegal weapons were branded "unfounded" by Lord Hutton.

Individual journalists like David Rose have expressed regret for having supported the war, others including John Rentoul remain supportive of Tony Blair and the decision to go to war in the face of the "anti-war media" at the Chilcot Inquiry.

But after weeks of poring over the details of the Iraq invasion we thought it was time to take a good look at the role the media played in the conflict:  Were reporters duped by Tony Blair’s "dodgy dossier" or does the whole affair point to deeper flaws in how news organisations operate? Did the media do as good a job as it could reporting the issues, with a reasonable balance of opinion from those who supported the case for war and those who challenged it?

Are there lessons to be learnt about reporting conflict, particularly with the current focus on Iran?

These are some of the questions we hope to find answers to at our special media inquiry on Wednesday 24 February, which will be hosted by Paddy O’Connell, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House. Tickets are on sale now.

 

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