Al Arabiya TV hires axed Arnett for Iraq coverage

Pulitzer Price winning journalist, Peter Arnett who achieved international acclaim for his on the spot reporting from Baghdad during the Gulf War, has been hired by the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television station, to assist in covering the ongoing U.S.-led war in Iraq.

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By  Massoud Derhally Published  April 5, 2003

Pulitzer Price winning journalist, Peter Arnett who achieved international acclaim for his on the spot reporting from Baghdad during the Gulf War, has been hired by the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television station, to assist in covering the ongoing U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The decision comes days after the US network, NBC fired Arnett for giving an interview to Iraqi state television in which he said the US's war plan was flawed and had failed.

“Clearly, the American war plans misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces,” Arnett said in the interview, which was broadcast by Iraq’s satellite television station and monitored by the AP in Egypt.

“Our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States,” he said. “It helps those who oppose the war, when you challenge the policy, to develop their arguments.”

“IT was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV — especially at a time of war — and it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview,” NBC News President Neal Shapiro said in a statement issued a day after a network spokeswoman initially defended the correspondent. “Therefore, Peter Arnett will no longer be reporting for NBC News and MSNBC.”

Arnett will be reporting alongside Al Arabiya's three-man team in Baghdad. After being fired by NBC on March 31, British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mirror hired Arnett.

"I am still in shock and awe at being fired," Arnett wrote for the Daily Mirror, which is opposed to the war. "I report the truth of what is happening here in Baghdad and will not apologize for it."

Arnett received a Pulitzer in 1966 for his work as an Associated Press reporter in Vietnam. In June 1998, the 24-hour news cable network, CNN that Arnett had worked at for 18 years, aired a documentary by him entitled "Valley of Death."

In the documentary, Arnett said US commandos had used deadly sarin gas in an operation to kill American soldiers who had defected into Laos from Vietnam. The allegations evoked a public outcry, with the US military coming down hard on CNN to retract the documentary and reprimand Arnett or effectively be ostracized and quarantined.

The Wall Street Journal reported on July 8, 1998 "Military officials continue to press the network to dismiss Mr. Arnett." The paper quoted Retired Major General Perry Smith, a former CNN consultant who resigned in protest over the Tailwind report.

"Gen. Smith said he told Mr. Johnson [Tom Johnson, chairman of the CNN News Group] that US military leaders felt that dismissing Mr. Arnett was the only way the network could regain its credibility in light of the nerve gas report. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon has criticized the CNN report, and the network said 'hundreds' of former military officials, including former Gen. Colin Powell, have come forward to complain.

"I basically told Tom you have no choice if you ever hope to have a relationship with the US military, Gen. Smith said."

Two CNN employees were fired and Arnett was reprimanded over the report, which the station retracted. Arnett later left the network.

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