The line between the mainstream media and the military has again been blurred. Alexander Cockburn tells the story in yesterday’s San Jose Mercury News:
"A handful of military personnel from the 4th Psychological Operations Group (i.e. PSYOPs) based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina have until recently been working in CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta. An enterprising Dutch journalist named Abe De Vries came up with this important story in mid-February, and he remains properly astounded that no mainstream news medium in the United States has evinced any interest in the story." [includes rush transcript]
"De Vries later told me he’d originally come upon the story via an article in the French Intelligence newsletter Feb. 17, which described a military symposium in Arlington, Va., held at the beginning of that same month, discussing use of the press in military operations." Col. Christopher St. John, commander of the U.S. Army’s 4th PSYOPs Group, was quoted by a French Intelligence correspondent, present at the symposium, as (in the correspondent’s words) having "called for greater cooperation between the armed forces and media giants." He (St. John) pointed out that some Army PSYOPs personnel had worked for CNN for several weeks, and helped in the production of some news stories for the network.
- Alexander Cockburn, nationally renowned columnist and editor of CounterPunch a bi-weekly political newsletter. Call CounterPunch: 800.840.3683.
- Abe De Vries: Balkans correspondent for Trouw, a leading Dutch daily newspaper.
- Eason Jordan, President of News Gathering and International Networks for CNN News.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday, there was an interesting piece in the San Jose Mercury News, with allegations that once again the line between the mainstream media and the military has again been blurred. Alexander Cockburn is the author of the piece, and he writes, "A handful of military personnel from the 4th Psychological Operations Group (i.e. PSYOPs) based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina have until recently been working in CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta. An enterprising Dutch journalist named Abe De Vries came up with this important story in mid-February, and he remains properly astounded that no mainstream news medium in the United States has evinced any interest in the story.
Cockburn’s piece goes on to say, "De Vries later told me he’d originally come upon the story via an article in the French Intelligence newsletter Feb. 17, which described a military symposium in Arlington, Va., held at the beginning of that same month, discussing use of the press in military operations."
We’re joined right now by three people to discuss this issue. Abe De Vries is with us from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, the Balkans correspondent for Trouw — I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly — a leading Dutch daily. We’re also joined by Alexander Cockburn, a well-known national columnist and editor of the newsletter "Counterpunch." And on the phone with us from Atlanta, Georgia is Eason Jordan, President of News Gathering and International Networks for CNN.
Let’s begin with Abe De Vries. Can you tell us how you first learned of this story?
ABE DE VRIES: Hi, Amy. Yes, I can. You know, I am subscribed to the internet site of the French intelligence organization which is called "Intelligence Online," and every day, you know, I am visiting a lot of internet sites. And I came across this short article of a French correspondent at the military symposium in Arlington, and somewhere in the middle of the text there was some American colonel, and he said in one line, "Oh, yes, we have very good cooperation with the people from CNN." And then I thought, "Well, what is this?" I thought this is worth looking into. So I decided just to call the people in Washington from US Army Information Service, and I called also CNN. Well, and that’s how it started.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms then — after you reported it, Alexander Cockburn, you picked up the story here in the San Jose Mercury — first in "Counterpunch," but then in the San Jose Mercury — and you remark that there’s been very little attention paid to it by anyone else in the media in this country.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: I think Abe’s excellent stories have made their way onto internet, where I saw them. And, actually, initially there were two stories — initially there was one story he’d done, I think, on February the 21st, and I did that in "Counterpunch," you know, bringing it up. And then I do a weekly broadcast to South Africa, and I mentioned the story there, and I guess the CNN office in Johannesburg listened with some interest to this story about how some interns had been in — some PSYOPS had been in the CNN headquarters.
They called their headquarters, and then Mr. Jordan — I believe is one of your guests this morning — rang me up in considerable indignation, saying this is a terrible slur on the good name of CNN and on the quality of its news gathering. But it did actually turn out that, indeed, there had been these interns. He says that CNN maintains stoutly, of course, that these interns, you know, they just were there making coffee or looking around, and they had no role in actually making news.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s actually bring Eason Jordan into the conversation to tell us what role the members of Army Psychological Operations personnel from Fort Bragg played at CNN. Welcome to Democracy Now!
EASON JORDAN: Thank you. They functioned as interns here. They functioned as observers. They were always under CNN supervision. They did not decide what we would report, how we would report it, when we would report something.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you paying them?
EASON JORDAN: No.
AMY GOODMAN: And what were they doing there?
EASON JORDAN: They were functioning as observers in three different units of this company starting on June 7, 1999, for a few weeks at a time. I think they came one at a time, and they worked in three parts of the company: in our radio — and I should be clear, not work, they did not work. They did not function as journalists. They were not paid. But they were in our radio department, our satellites area and our Southeast bureau.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Mr. Jordan, given the enormous influence that CNN has internationally, obviously, as well as in this country, in terms of news gathering, would you be surprised that some people might question why a military unit that is specifically geared toward disseminating information from the military’s point of view, why they might have such interest in working at CNN, even for temporarily?
EASON JORDAN: Certainly. The question is appropriate, and the answer is a simple one: they should not have been here, they’re not here anymore, and they will not be here ever again.
AMY GOODMAN: But can you talk about what went into the consideration of having them in the news operation to begin with? What was the idea of having them observe? What did they want to learn?
EASON JORDAN: Well, they apparently wanted to come and observe to see how CNN functioned, as a lot of people from around the world do. We have observers here from all over the world. Yesterday, I hosted a group including members of the Bulgarian military. We have ten journalists — actually, fifteen journalists here now from around the world, from Russia, from China and many other countries. And they are in — these journalists who are visiting are here for a full month. And believe me, we’ve hosted hundreds and hundreds of journalists from around the world for weeks and weeks at a time, and if there were true evidence that the US government or any government had undue influence on CNN’s coverage and reporting, you would hear about it in a very big way. There’s no evidence of that.
AMY GOODMAN: What made you decide that they shouldn’t have been there, that you made a mistake in bringing PSYOPS personnel into CNN?
EASON JORDAN: Let me be clear, news gathering, no one involved in news gathering at the leadership level was aware that this program had begun. And as soon as we found out about, it we put a halt to it within a matter of days. We were a bit confused by the initial reporting, because the initial reporting was that these people were employed, that these people were here during the Kosovo conflict. In fact, the very first one started June 7, and the Kosovo conflict ended June 9. So clearly they weren’t even here really for 99% of the Kosovo conflict, but they had no role whatsoever in our Kosovo coverage and, in fact, had no role whatsoever in any of our coverage.
AMY GOODMAN: Alexander Cockburn?
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: I think one of the things that should be pointed out, obviously, and not to challenge what Mr. Jordan says, is that the Army was sufficiently elated by the presence of these gentlemen — were they all men?
EASON JORDAN: No.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: Well, what are these people, I don’t know what — there were how many women and how many men?
EASON JORDAN: I think it was four men and one woman.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: OK, well, there are these four men and one woman. The Army was obviously pleased about it, because we have, as quoted by — actually by "Intelligence Online," Colonel Christopher St John, the Commander of the 4th PSYOPS Group, you know, mentioned this propaganda pow-wow in Washington. So the Army obviously thought it was not just a matter of having five people, who — you know, standing around the studio, but this was something worthy of comment in a conference later on. So, from that point of view, I think the story — I mean, it may well be true that CNN — I wrote in "Counterpunch" that it could be that CNN was the target of a PSYOPS penetration, was too naive or too inattentive in some ways to notice. That could very well be true.
EASON JORDAN: If I could say —
JUAN GONZALEZ: Sure, Mr. Jordan.
EASON JORDAN: This is not a Tom Clancy spy novel here. This is — let’s deal with facts. I oversee news gathering at CNN, and I am here to tell you there is no way that PSYOPS personnel had an influence on CNN’s coverage, period.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: No, I don’t think it’s quite a matter of saying, you know, that in two weeks the PSYOPS person suddenly cunningly introduced US Army propaganda into some newscast. I don’t think, actually, to be blunt about it, in the Kosovo thing you had no need to. But the question is really, you know, the way these things work. If people come to an office, and they make friends at the office, then the next time they want to know something, they know someone they can call up. A relationship is a much more subtle thing than someone suddenly running in and writing Amanpour’s copy for her.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But at the same time, Alexander, knowing how many of these huge media corporations work, sometimes there are other areas of a company, a business side or an executive side, that makes an arrangement that people on the editorial side have no knowledge of. And this appears to be, at least from what Mr. Jordan says, what happened in this particular situation.
AMY GOODMAN: Who actually made the deal, Mr. Jordan?
EASON JORDAN: The deal was done through our human resources area through our internship department.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: Again, one must say, and I don’t want to — I mean, obviously, not say that Mr. Jordan is saying untrue, but people — when these embarrassing situations come up, you know, people tend to say, "Well, of course, this was well below our radar screen, and we had nothing to do with it." It may well be true.
However, I have to say another thing, that when Mr. Jordan rang me up and was initially giving me a rousing for reproducing De Vries’s excellent story, I mean, the implication was that CNN really was totally above suspicion of complicity with the Pentagon at any level. And I have to say in a more general way that the reason why this story, I think, has struck a chord is that many people, for better or for worse, regard CNN, particularly in the Kosovo conflict, as having played rather more of a role than the mere disinterested reproducer of fact, as having been a major force in stoking up popular emotion about that war.
I always say it’s summed up in the relationship between Christiane Amanpour, one of your more major foreign correspondents, and actually her husband, who was at that time the major propagandist for the State Department. Now, that’s not to say that Amanpour isn’t capable of making her own decisions, but I think that appearance of unity in putting a particular line does raise or for many people symbolizes CNN’s reproduction of government propaganda.
AMY GOODMAN: Mr. Jordan, would you care to respond?
EASON JORDAN: I just — I think that’s nonsense. Christiane Amanpour’s reporting speaks for itself, and she’s an independent journalist who, you know, upholds the highest standards of journalism and is somebody who is widely recognized as a tremendous journalist, has been honored around the world for her reporting achievements.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read to you from the Psychological Operations literature. I want to say that we had hoped to have on someone from PSYOPS, but they decided not to come on this morning. But it starts off — again, this is from Psychological Operations — with a quote: "Capture their minds, and their hearts and souls will follow." And it says, "Psychological operations, or PSYOP, are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning and ultimately the behavior of organizations, groups and individuals. Used in all aspects of war, it’s a weapon whose effectiveness is limited only by the ingenuity of the commander using it. A proven winner in combat and peacetime, PSYOP is one of the oldest weapons in the arsenal of man. It’s an important force, protector, combat multiplier and a non-lethal weapons system."
We have to break for stations to identify themselves, but when we come back, I wanted to get your comment on that. We’re talking to Alexander Cockburn, who is editor of the bi-weekly "Counterpunch," a political newsletter, and well-known national columnist. Also, Eason Jordan is with us; he’s the president of CNN International. And we’re joined from Belgrade by Abe De Vries, who is a Dutch reporter who first broke the story of PSYOPS personnel interning at CNN in Atlanta. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests, the President of CNN International, Eason Jordan; Alexander Cockburn, national columnist and editor of "Counterpunch," political newsletter; and Abe De Vries from Belgrade, Dutch reporter who broke the story of the PSYOPS interns at CNN.
Eason Jordan, I wanted to ask you a question about the bombing of RTS, Radio Television Serbia, that happened at the end of April in 1999. I actually was with you at an event, although you might not have known it. It was the Overseas Press Club Awards dinner in New York City, where Richard Holbrook was addressing the journalists who had come together for this honoring of journalists. And he said, "I have just learned from Eason Jordan, the President of CNN International, that NATO forces have just bombed Radio Television Serbia off the air." And we went back to our offices that night afterwards, and we saw the body parts being pulled out. And I wanted to ask, since CNN worked out of RTS, as well, during the bombing to, I guess, satellite your stuff up and everything, if you knew in advance that NATO was going to bomb RTS.
EASON JORDAN: We knew that in advance, and I think much of the world knew it in advance, and certainly the Serb leadership knew it in advance. And CNN has condemned that bombing and is very sorry that it ever happened and certainly never would have wanted it to happen. We feel terrible that I did happen.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you were alerted that they were going to bomb Radio Television Serbia that night?
EASON JORDAN: Not that night, in particular, as far as I can recall, but I can tell you that not only was it widely known that the bombing was going to take place, but the Serb leadership organized demonstrations outside of RTS to protest the impending bombing of the TV station.
AMY GOODMAN: So you were able to get your CNN personnel out before the bombs fell.
EASON JORDAN: That’s correct. And the tragedy in this is that the Serb leadership knew the building was going to be bombed, not necessarily that night, but the Serb leadership knew the building was targeted, and the head of Serbian TV, Mr. Milanovic, who I’ve met — I’ve been to Belgrade, and I was there during the war — he ordered his employees to stay in that building and said they would be fired and they’d lose their pensions if they did not report to work in their headquarters building, which was targeted for bombing.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you must have known it was that night, right, because personnel were in on other nights, but you made sure they that they weren’t there that night.
EASON JORDAN: Our people had been out of that building for several days before the bombing took place.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: May I ask a question, Amy?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Alexander Cockburn.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: I mean, actually, under the protocols of war crimes, I mean, that bombing, as it was planned, was a war crime. This was involving civilians. It’s very clear. So all the people who knew — and I’m not making an exception of the CNN directorship — every correspondent who knew — I mean, every news organization in the West knew — by not reporting on their media "We know for a certain fact this is going to be bombed. We know the time. We’ve asked our people out," they were, to that extent, accomplice to a war crime, were they not?
EASON JORDAN: That is ridiculous.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: Why is it ridiculous? It’s not ridiculous at all.
EASON JORDAN: It is ridiculous.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: If you knew that a news thing was going to be bombed — I mean, many of the bombings by NATO — not that you’d know this from CNN, I might add — many of the bombings were actually war crimes. They were direct attempts to inflict suffering on a civilian population. And the bombing of a news outlet was similarly a war crime. And it’s not ridiculous to say you were party to it. You were.
EASON JORDAN: That’s ridiculous.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eason Jordan, let me ask you this: Robert Fisk, who is a very respected, award-winning journalist with The Independent in Britain, who’s been based in Lebanon for about two decades now, did a column where he said that that night Alexander Vucic, who is the Minister of Information, was going to be interviewed by Larry King, and so he would be going to RTS studios. Larry King is on Eastern Time about 9:00 in the evening. And it was only because he was late that he was not caught in that bombing.
I’ve just been given the story right now. It says, "Two days before NATO bombed the Serb Television headquarters in Belgrade, CNN received a tip from its Atlanta headquarters that the building was to be destroyed. They were told to remove their facilities from the premises at once, which they did. A day later, Serbian Information Minister Alexander Vucic received a faxed invitation from the Larry King Live show in the US to appear on CNN. They wanted him on air at 2:30 in the morning of April 23rd and asked him to arrive at Serb Television half an hour early for make-up. Vucic was late, which was just as well for him, since NATO missiles slammed into the building at six minutes past two. The first one exploded in the make-up room, where the young Serb assistant was burned to death. CNN calls this all a coincidence, saying the Larry King show, put out by the entertainment division, did not know of the news department’s instruction to its men to leave the Belgrade building."
Can you talk more about that? The Minister of Information invited to those headquarters, to RTS, that night and only missing the missiles because he was late?
EASON JORDAN: First of all, it’s important that we not believe everything we read. The article is inaccurate. I’m sorry. I was here. I was in charge of the coverage, and I spent a lot of time in Yugoslavia, as well, during the war, and I know the realities of the situation. Minister Vucic cancelled his appearance on the program twelve hours before it began. That’s the reality of the situation. An additional reality is both in Brussels and in Washington, US and NATO officials made it emphatically clear weeks in advance of the bombing that all Serb media outlets were being targeted by US and NATO. So there’s no mystery here.
Now, Serb TV and the Serb officials were not staying away from Serb Television, knowing that it was a target, and it was the only way we could originate transmissions from Belgrade at that time. So we had standing offers to Serb leaders, who routinely visited the building, knowing that it would be targeted. Just as I was in Belgrade, I went to buildings that I knew were targeted. That’s a risk that you run in war zones.
AMY GOODMAN: But you must have known that it was happening that night. I mean, you really would have had to clear your people out to make sure they were not there.
EASON JORDAN: Our people had been cleared out of there days before, and I did not know and CNN did not know it was going to happen that night.
AMY GOODMAN: Since you said that NATO had warned you, saying that the Serb Television station was targeted, did you broadcast that? Did you do stories on that?
EASON JORDAN: NATO warned the world. Why do you think Serb TV was organizing demonstrations outside of its building?
AMY GOODMAN: Right. But did CNN do stories on that, as you said that you had protested it?
EASON JORDAN: Sure, absolutely.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to, just in wrapping up this segment, to ask Abe De Vries from Belgrade: What has been the response in other media in Europe to your initial reporting on this CNN-PSYOPS relationship, even though it’s clearly been discontinued and that the editorial managers at CNN have disavowed it?
ABE DE VRIES: Well, you know, to my knowledge, no European media, outside my own newspaper, Trouw, did anything with it. You know, it was covered in the United States by a number of internet sites, "The Emperor’s Clothes" being the first. But in Europe I didn’t notice any reaction. And, of course, this is a bit strange, you know, because there is a central point in this whole discussion, which is not mentioned until now. I didn’t try to prove that CNN — that the military at CNN had any real influence. The only point was, they were there. And for a big news organization trying to present itself as independent, as having no interests in common with the military people, with the Pentagon, it is unbelievable that there were these kinds of close contacts. I mean, you have to avoid the appearance that something is wrong, right? Well, that is what I wanted to make clear in my article.
AMY GOODMAN: Eason Jordan, I wanted to ask you another question that I did have a chance to ask Christiane Amanpour and also Frank Sesno, actually, that night at the Overseas Press Club dinner, when NATO forces bombed RTS. And that’s this: it’s the policy of not just CNN, but all of the mainstream networks, of putting retired generals on the payroll to comment in times of war and not to also have peace activists, peace leaders, analysts on the payroll to also be there throughout, to be commenting, to provide a counterpoint of view.
EASON JORDAN: I’m unaware of any CNN policy in that regard. In wartime, we want people who understand how wars are orchestrated. We want experts who can address those issues. And if we have not put enough peace activists on the air, that’s not because we have some policy against that. To the contrary, there’s no more greater a peace activist and globalist in the world than the person who overseas CNN: Ted Turner.
AMY GOODMAN: But on this issue of the retired generals, why have them on the payroll? The Pentagon is certainly more than willing to put out its point of view for free.
EASON JORDAN: Because we want people who can provide insight that is not being provided necessarily by the Pentagon.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, more often than not, they are being used to talk about whether, you know, there should be continued air strikes or whether they should escalate to ground troops. These are political issues; they’re not specifically technical issues. Why not have peace activists for each retired general you have on the payroll also there?
EASON JORDAN: I mean, this is an issue very different from the one I thought we were going to discuss. But certainly we’re committed to balance, and if in any way we fall short, we need to redouble our efforts to make sure we’re balanced in that regard.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, in general, even though some of these questions have been a little bit off the main topic of PSYOPS, I think they all deal with this question of an independent organization like yours that has so much influence worldwide, that its relationship to the US military in all of its manifestations, whether it’s with PSYOPS interns, whether it’s the use of the generals as color commentators for war, or whether it is of your relationship and information that you get from the military, it’s all within the bounds of, that for you to be able to provide objective news coverage, the public has to have confidence that you are not being unduly influenced by the American military in times of major conflicts. Don’t you agree?
EASON JORDAN: Absolutely.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: Can I make a point, Amy?
AMY GOODMAN: Alexander Cockburn.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: I mean, let’s look at this the other way around. Supposing that, in fact, there was an incredibly successful military penetration of CNN, supposing, for the sake of argument, that everything Eason is saying is nonsense and that in fact this has been a very long Pentagon program and that actually PSYOPS is having an extraordinarily close relationship — I’m just hypothesizing — how would you disprove that?
Because, after all, everything that you see on CNN would buttress that conclusion. CNN was an ardent advocate of the war, through Amanpour’s, I think, vastly inflated reporting from Kosovo. It did not report — CNN actually rather carefully omitted reporting on, let’s say, the approaches to the war, what the US and NATO were forcing Yugoslavia to do at Rambouillet. They actually, I think, suppressed oppositional opinion in the United States. They did not give a balanced point of view. They fueled at all points the Pentagon, State Department, White House approach to the war. I think you could demonstrate that far beyond the confines of your program, and it’s been done by a number of people.
I’m just saying that if you looked at it objectively from afar, actually what you could see is evidence of an enormously successful PSYOPS operation. So, in a way, the burden is far more on CNN to disprove what you could conclude was a successful operation. I’m just putting this, because I think this is coming into a terrain where Mr. Eason Jordan is obviously maintaining his point of view, because he’s paid by that organization.
Did Ted Turner — he mentioned Ted Turner — did Turner, who’s the boss, actually go on CNN and raise peacemaking concerns? I don’t particularly care what Ted Turner thinks in the privacy of his own home. CNN, as an outlet, both in Iraq and now, is, to my view of thinking, devotes about 95% of its time in times of war to putting the US government point of view.
AMY GOODMAN: Eason Jordan, President of CNN International.
EASON JORDAN: It’s impossible to respond to all those ridiculous allegations, because I’ve got to tell you, it’s hard to prove a negative. You want to come to CNN, Andrew, or anybody else? Come on to CNN, spend weeks here, if you want to, and look for the evidence of these conspiracy taking place.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: I don’t need to come. I can turn on my television set.
EASON JORDAN: Please do, because you’re not watching [inaudible] —
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: I’d be more than happy to come and walk around with you and raise some of these points. They’ve been well done. I mean, we haven’t got quite time here, but I think there are many, many questions that can be addressed to CNN, very serious questions, because I think the same problems will arise the next time around.
When you say, you know, the role is not really to have peaceniks, you’ve had — I mean, Amy had, actually — there was a very good quote from a retired general during the war, where he was not — Sesno, you see, your Vice President for Political Affairs, he said, "We bring generals on, we call them 'analysts.' We don’t bring them in as advocates. We actually talk to them about that. They’re not there as advocates."
Well, actually, some organization brought up a quote from a retired Lieutenant Colonel Dan Benton on CNN, and here’s what he said — it’s scarcely objective commentary — "As I listen to this press conference this morning with the reports of rapes, burnings, villages being burned and this particularly incredible report of blood banks, of blood being harvested from young boys for the use of Yugoslav forces, I just got madder and madder. The US has a responsibility as the only superpower in the world, and when we learn about these things, somebody has got to stand up and say, ’That’s enough. Stop it. We aren’t going to put up with this.’" That’s the general you had on. Actually, he was relating a particularly ridiculous propaganda story put out by NATO that young boys were being forced to give blood to Serbian soldiers.
That’s what I mean when you say, actually, your guy was putting out something that was probably invented by PSYOPS. So you say correctly it’s impossible to challenge or it’s difficult to challenge a negative, but, you know, you’ve got a lot of defending to do, in my opinion.
EASON JORDAN: I appreciate that. You know, CNN is manipulated by, or attempted — you know, people around the world attempt to manipulate us everyday, from governments and militaries all over the world, and certainly CNN was victimized by much Serb propaganda during the war and Iraqi propaganda, and propaganda is thrown at all of us every day, and we do our best to sort our way through it.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: I notice you’ve said Serb propaganda, Iraqi propaganda. Don’t you think you were victimized by US Pentagon propaganda?
EASON JORDAN: All governments are involved in propaganda campaigns, absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: Mr. Jordan, let me ask you this question: the Committee to Protect Journalists just came out with their annual report about the number of journalists killed around the world — in places like Sierra Leone, more than thirty. A terrible story. But in counting the number of journalists who killed in Yugoslavia, they do not include the people who were killed at RTS that night. And I want to ask you if you think that is wrong, that they should be included, as well, not characterized as propagandists?
EASON JORDAN: I think we need to be clear on what makes a journalist. A number of people who were killed in the building were security guards and make-up artists, things like that. But as I’ve made clear, CNN denounced the bombing of Serb TV, was opposed to it before it happened, even though it was known publicly that it was going to happen. And the journalists who were in that building — and I’ve been to Serb TV twice since it’s been bombed — they absolutely should be on that list.
AMY GOODMAN: Another question I had, as we wrap up the discussion, had to do with your meetings when you were in Yugoslavia — you said you were there a number of times — with, for example, Goran Matic, who is one of the leaders of Mira Markovic’s Yugoslav United Left party, which was very heavily involved with cracking down on the media. What kinds of discussions did you have with him?
EASON JORDAN: I’ve met with the President of Serbia, the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia and many, many people. And the discussions were frank, forthright, animated and tough at times, because CNN was targeted by the Serb propaganda machine in a way that I felt was unfair and inappropriate, and it put our people in great danger. We had people who were beaten. We had cars and equipment destroyed. In the end, we lost over $1.5 million of equipment to the Serbs, and to prove that we’re equal opportunity victims, NATO bombed one of our TV transmitters in Belgrade, so we took it from all sides during the conflict.
AMY GOODMAN: And just to recap, you do think if reporters were killed in RTS, that they should be counted as reporters?
EASON JORDAN: That’s correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us: Abe De Vries from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, who first broke the story; Eason Jordan, President of CNN International, talking to us from Atlanta; and Alexander Cockburn, who does the newsletter, "Counterpunch," a biweekly political newsletter, also well-known commentator and columnist. His pieces on this issue appeared yesterday in the San Jose Mercury News and other publications. Websites? Alexander Cockburn?
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: To find out about "Counterpunch," you can do www.counterpunch.org, or dial 1-(800)-840-3683.
AMY GOODMAN: One more time, that 800 number?
ALEXANDER COCKBURN: 1-(800)-840-3683.
AMY GOODMAN: And the CNN website, Mr. Jordan?
EASON JORDAN: CNN.com.
AMY GOODMAN: CNN.com. And Abe De Vries, do you have a website for the newspaper you write for, Trouw?
ABE DE VRIES: Yes, and for everybody in the States who can read the Dutch language, it would be worthwhile to visit it. It’s www.trouw.nl.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s www.trouw.nl.
ABE DE VRIES: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, I just wanted to remind our listeners that the Army did pull out of the program at the last minute. We were going to have a Lieutenant Colonel from PSYOPS operation in Fort Bragg. He actually had worked in both East Timor and Somalia. But this morning, when hearing further about the guests that were going to be on, they decided to pull out.