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by on December 2, 2013


CNN’s role in the 2001 invasion of Iraq was unprecedented. CNN was unique in reporting the news from the ground on a 24-hour basis with the support from the American army’s technology to broadcast instant images of the events. However, despite CNN’s success around the world, it was censured by the government of the United Staes of America (USA) and forced so stop reporting images that would implicate the US army’s imprecise bombings and the assassination of civilians.

The Gulf War or Persian Gulf War in 1991 was waged by the United Nations (UN), led by the USA in response of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Media coverage of what was going on in Iraq was significant for various reasons, especially the role played by  CNN’s reporters via radio from the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad even before the war has begun. The Gulf War was the best ever covered at the time. The coverage was heavily televised and new technologies such as satellite assistance from the army were used in order to provide the best images possible. CNN also had the support from the military media equipment, indicating targets against the Iraqi forces. This allowed the reporters to get clear images of precise bombings in some cases and the use of night vision equipment, which can be seen in the following video.

Three important American networks; ABC, CBS and NBC covered the news live from Iraq. Nevertheless, CNN’s coverage since the beginning of the American intervention caused a tremendous impact upon viewers around the world. Although the coverage of the other media networks was satisfactory, the role of CNN was remarkable due to its 24-hour news coverage live from the war itself. When the war started, CNN already had all the equipment and personnel covering the news from Baghdad.  In fact, CNN’s role in terms of coverage from the ground was unique and widely accepted by millions of viewers around the world. However, because CNN’s reports dominated media in the western world, providing real images of every event, its wide coverage forced the American government to reassess the strategy of war. The American government saw the spread of real images as an offence against the USA  interest and tried to polarise journalist’s reports from spreading around the world. For instance, Peter Arnett was titled as anti-patriotic for showing images where several civilians were killed.

Despite the USA government opposition against CNN’s live reports, CNN managed to continue to cover the insides of what was going on, and realised that the American targets such as bridges, civilian institutions, bunkers and military sites were not assessed properly before carrying out the attacks. CNN reports suggested that the American army did not take sufficient measures to avoid the killing of civilians. For example, an American bomb killed more than 350 people, among them women and children, in a bunker outside Baghdad.

Due to the success of CNN’s coverage, many critics emerged from various analysts around the world.  For instance, Columbia’s professor Douglas Kellner argued that media framed war as an “existing narrative” which represented a unique American point of view. Kellner reacted against the publication of images such as an Iraqi driver crossing a bridge just before a laser-guided bomb destroyed it completely. The video was also shown in conference led by General Norman Schwarzkopf on 30th January 1991. The general called him “the luckiest man in Iraq”. The audience laughed, as it was a joke.

The success of CNN coverage during the Gulf War was unprecedented in the Western World. Public diplomacy had changed significantly in terms of coverage in 1991 and governments were forced to reassess the course of war. News were available at all times right from the events, the media technology had developed and coverage was more effective.



Allied Media Corp (2013) A Ten Year History of Excellence. [Online] Available from: (Accessed on 23/11/ 2013)

Peter Arnett (2003) Reporting America at War. [Online] Available form: (Accessed on 23/11/ 2013) (Accessed: 23/11/ 2013)


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