WASHINGTON — In a tit-for-tat, the Iraqi government expelled a Fox correspondent over the weekend after the U.S. tossed out an Iraqi News Agency journalist living in Gotham.
The dueling expulsions underscore the mounting tension as the TV news biz prepares for a possible war with Iraq.
A major move came late last week as the Pentagon began doling out 500 “embedding” slots to news orgs, whereby journalists will be assigned to a particular military troop. Journalists could be shipped out to the Middle East as early as Friday, with the Pentagon insisting that this doesn’t necessarily mean war.
Many of the nets have correspondents in Baghdad but want to be prepared in the event that Iraq orders more expulsions.
The Iraqi government informed Fox on Feb. 14 that correspondent Greg Palkot was being expelled, citing Washington’s decision to give Mohammed Allawi the boot. Palkot’s expulsion leaves the cable news net with no reporter in that country. Three technicians from the network were allowed to stay.
Washington officials said Allawi, who covered the United Nations for the past two years, was considered “harmful to the security of the United States.” Allawi received an expulsion letter Feb. 13 and must leave the country by the end of the month.
Millions for coverage
Considering that it was the first Persian Gulf war that put CNN on the map, news nets are trying to ensure a place in history, dispatching crews to major Middle Eastern cities and spending millions on state-of-the-art equipment. Some of the largest operations are being set up in Kuwait City, considered friendly to American interests.
The broadcast news nets received eight to 10 embedding slots each, with two people per slot. Affiliates interested in embedding must use one of their network’s slots, although various military bases can request that news crews from their local TV stations be embedded.
Later this week, Hollywood celebrities, including Martin Sheen and Angelica Houston, will be vying for news coverage as they announce a national grassroots campaign, “Win Without War.” The campaign, skedded to be announced Wednesday in Los Angeles, is intended to build political opposition to a preemptive war with Iraq.
(Wire services contributed to this report.)