A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Ethics In-Brief

By Quill

Competitors criticize CNN’s ethics

As media compete to get exclusive reports out of Afghanistan, CNN’s competitors are quietly raising past accusations once again, hoping that CNN will refrain from making deals they say they cannot and would not make.

Over the years, CNN has struck deals that allowed it to get war zone pictures and interviews that its domestic competitors cannot – the exclusive material it needs to maintain its image, according to The New York Times.

In October, a truck convoy was scheduled to move a satellite uplink into Kandahar, the Afghan city that has seen heavy action since United States bombing raids began on Oct. 7. The satellite dish would deliver the first clear images from Kandahar.

Although the satellite dish is the property of CNN, it is to be shared with Al Jazeera, the Arab-language news network that has the only Taliban-sanctioned television presence in the area. In return, CNN would get exclusive interviews with an English-speaking Al Jazeera correspondent based in Kandahar, which competitors view as an enormous advantage in a war that has been short on images and information from the ground.

However, competitors see CNN as perpetually engaging in a kind of geopolitics and question the cable company’s ethics. Media companies also have implied that CNN is willing to cozy up to regimes at odds with the United States just to win a competitive advantage, The New York Times reported.

Although the other networks have not leveled any specific accusations against CNN during the war on terrorism, they have brought up the Gulf War. For weeks during that conflict, CNN was the only network the Iraqi government permitted to report live from Baghdad, according to The New York Times. That presence gave CNN an immense advantage over CBS, ABC and NBC. People at those networks still say that CNN could have enjoyed such exclusive access to Baghdad only by striking some sort of deal with the enemy.