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UC Berkeley Press Release

"Media at War" conference

– Journalists and expert commentators from around the world will converge at the University of California, Berkeley, from March 16 -18 to assess "The Media at War: The U.S. Invasion and Occupation of Iraq."

This public evaluation of media coverage of the war will draw together veteran war reporters and photographers from major U.S. news organizations, diplomatic correspondents, media executives, European and Middle Eastern journalists, and Human Rights Watch officials charged with monitoring the continuing events in Iraq.

Participants will include The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, New Yorker, Le Monde, Jordan Times, Al Jazeera, National Public Radio, CNN, News Hour with Jim Lehrer, ABC Nightline, CBS's " 60 Minutes" and others.

Also joining the discussions will be academics from fields such as public health, medical anthropology, sociology, psychiatry, criminal justice and
communications.

Highlights will include:

* An address by Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador and the last American official to meet with Saddam Hussein after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991. After a Wilson opinion piece appeared in The New York Times in July 2003 disputing administration claims that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger, Wilson's wife Valerie Plame was "outed" as an undercover CIA operative by columnist Robert Novak. Wilson will talk at noon, Wednesday, March 17, in the Lipman Room of Barrows Hall.

* "Weapons of Mass Destruction: Truth and Its Consequences," a conversation between CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Hans Blix, the United Nation's former chief weapons inspector, who headed the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the United States attacked. Blix previously ran the International Atomic Energy Agency for 17 years and has a new book out about his experiences in Iraq. Their conversation will take place at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 17, in Zellerbach Auditorium.

* A panel that will examine the history of war reporting and how it has changed, the relationships between the media and the military, coverage of international humanitarian law during armed conflicts and occupations, and the unique aspects of coverage of the Iraq war and occupation.

* "Did We Get it Right? The Media at War in Iraq," a panel discussion concluding the conference. The New York Times' Baghdad Bureau Chief John Burns will be joined by National Public Radio's senior foreign editor, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, an ITN diplomatic correspondent and Martin Smith, a producer and reporter for PBS/Frontline's "Truth, War & Consequences" and "Beyond Baghdad."

* An exhibit formally opening on Thursday, March 18, at the Graduate School of Journalism's North Gate Hall that features photos of war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan by James Nachtwey. The award-winning correspondent with Agency 7 suffered shrapnel injuries in Baghdad in December 2003 when an explosive landed inside the Humvee in which he was riding.

Sponsoring the program is UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center and the Office of the Chancellor. Helping to underwrite the event is the Open Society Institute and The Sandler Family Supporting Foundation. Co-sponsors include the San Francisco Chronicle, Commonwealth Club, and World Affairs Council.

Orville Schell, dean of the journalism school, said it is important to evaluate the media's performance in Iraq and the complex questions it raises. Those include links between the media and patriotism, democracy, the pros and cons of being an embedded reporter, the concept of an independent press, responsibility to the public, and the role of cable TV news.

Although media coverage of the Iraq war has been the focus of a recent piece in The New York Review of Books and a "virtual roundtable" discussion hosted by the Poynter Institute for journalists, the debate continues. Schell developed the conference with Eric Stover, director of UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center and an adjunct professor at the School of Public Health. Stover has investigated war crimes in Yugoslavia and in Iraq. He worked with Human Rights Watch in Iraq shortly after the invasion, and recently returned there with Human Rights Watch to search for mass graves and evidence for war crimes trials.

Stover and Schell organized a similar project in 1997 that looked at the media and its "Reporting from the Killing Fields" during major conflicts in Rwanda, East Timor, Cambodia, Bosnia and Yugoslavia.

Stover said the media has not covered the U.S. military as an occupying force since the Vietnam War, and that the Iraq war and occupation offer additional challenges for reporters in terms of their language skills and cultural and political preparation. The conference, he said, will explore a wide spectrum of views - both positive and negative - about reporting on the Iraq war.

In conjunction with the Western Knight Center, the journalism school is offering up to 20 mid-career journalists a special training in covering regional and ethnic conflicts such as the Iraq war. They will attend additional programs as well as the three-day conference.

The daytime conference events are free and open to the public. The two evening events taking place at Zellerbach Hall require tickets, available for purchase through Cal Performances, http://www.calperfs.berkeley.edu/. General admission is $10, and admission is free for UC Berkeley students.

For more information, visit the Human Rights Center Web site at www.hrcberkeley.org and the conference Web site at http://journalism.berkeley.edu/conf/mediaatwar/index.html.