The Middle East is currently torn by violence in the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Additionally, the neighboring Arab countries could be drawn into the fighting and the diplomatic maneuvering. The war against terrorism has created stresses in America’s relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. And reports suggest that the Bush Administration may try to unseat Iraq’s ruler Saddam Hussein. The continuing unrest in the Middle East threatens to disrupt an important part of America’s oil supply.
What special problems do journalists encounter when trying to cover these and other developments in this volatile and vital region? Is it difficult to resist adopting a pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian viewpoint? How do reporters sort out truth from propaganda when faced with conflicting accusations about which side is responsible for the violence? What effect does anti-American feeling in the region have on the ability to fully report the complex story?
Four veteran reporters who have covered the Middle East discuss these and other questions. This is the 16th in a series of forums exploring the role of the news media, information, and policy development in the post-September 11th world. The forums are co-sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Shorenstein Center on Press and Politics at Harvard University.