Where Was Arnett's Freedom Of Speech?


Last week, a high-profile broadcast journalist, Peter Arnett, was fired for expressing his opinion about the war on state-run Iraqi television.

His opinion of the U.S./Coalition effort was not very high.

He essentially said the military had misjudged the nationalism and resistance of the Iraqi people, which was causing a delay in order to redesign the war plans. Arnett also told the Iraqi interviewer there is growing opposition to the war in the U.S. and a growing challenge to Bush.

His comment landed him in the unemployment line, when he was given the boot by NBC, MSNBC and National Geographic Explorer.

However they made him a hot commodity for an anti-war, anti-Bush British tabloid, which hired him the same day he was fired. He was also hired by a private Belgian television network and a state-owned Greek television channel.

The misfortunes and fortunes of Arnett are not the issue.

The issue is the hypocrisy that the actions of NBC, MSNBC and National Geographic Explorer represent.

Here are three leaders in the field of broadcast journalism. They would most likely defend the rights of a free press come hell or high water, yet an employee freely expressing his personal opinions is shown the door.

The president of NBC News said what Arnett did was wrong. The people at National Geographic said had they been consulted, they would not have given Arnett permission to go on Iraqi television.

Arnett is from New Zealand, but don't we extend our Bill of Rights to everyone equally?

The message is not a pretty one. You are entitled to your rights, so long as they don't sour other sources -- the unidentified Pentagon or White House source who agrees to speak so long as they remain anonymous.

A single freedom -- such as freedom of the press -- carries no greater weight than any other freedom. Each is precious. Each deserves to be upheld and defended. No rights should be sacrificed in the time of war. After all, our wars are fought to keep us free and give our freedoms to others.

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