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Foreign media wary of U.S.

NEW YORK — Journalists from around the world are reporting the war in Iraq through a very different lens than U.S.-based media, one often colored by a mistrust of the Bush administration and U.S. intentions in general.

"You see a lot more skepticism in other parts of the world," said Alice Chasan, editor of World Press Review, which compiles reports from media in other countries.

The context of many foreign reports is "What is the United States really trying to do? Is the war necessary?" she said. "Whatever happens is being seen through the prism of President Bush being arrogant."

By contrast, "among the U.S. press, there tends to be a bandwagon effect and a fog of patriotism that has at times appalled me," Chasan said. "It's something you don't see elsewhere."

Some foreign journalists based in the United States agree that the press here has been far from tough.

"I think that most American journalists have been remarkably uncritical in covering the war," said Tom Buk-Swienty, U.S. bureau chief for the Danish weekly Weekendavisen.

"In an effort not to look unpatriotic and in order to please the majority of people in this country, some parts of the press have almost become a PR machine instead of being the watchdog that one would expect in a democracy," he said.

Patriotic displays include a U.S. flag adorning one corner of the front page of the New York Post. Meanwhile, broadcast reporters "embedded" with U.S. units in the region have begun to use the personal pronoun "we."

U.S.-based outlets have agonized over matters of taste as they weigh their audiences' appetite for gruesome photos.

When a grenade explosion killed a member of the 101st Airborne Division on Saturday, CBS showed restraint even though a crew near the explosion taped explicit footage of the wounded.

Sunday night, when the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite network showed graphic footage of dead and captured U.S. soldiers in Iraq, U.S. networks opted not to air it. CNN chose to carry a single grainy still image.

Foreign media outlets, by contrast, have not shied away from airing bloody images that portray in the most graphic form the carnage of war.

The British Broadcasting Corp., which has a reciprocal agreement with Al-Jazeera to share footage, showed excerpts showing the U.S. prisoners once it believed that family members had been notified.

Civilian casualties also tend to receive more attention overseas, Chasan said. "The foreign press is usually more likely to show what's happening to the Iraqi people," she said.

Even in Britain, the United States' staunchest ally, the media have carried more information about anti-war sentiment building around the world.

A BBC News report Tuesday, for example, highlighted the fact that a summit of Arab foreign ministers had demanded the immediate withdrawal of troops, declaring the war a "threat to world peace."

For their part, CNN officials argue that they are covering the war from every possible viewpoint, including the Arab viewpoint. They say they will continue to seek and provide "balanced coverage."

Sure to rile American readers is a new English-language Web site launched Monday by Al-Jazeera, which has promised to offer a different perspective than those of Western outlets.

One article titled "Coalition of the Willing Has Become a Joke" poked fun at the obscure nations in the U.S.-led coalition.

Such glaring skepticism is reflected in editorials in foreign publications.

In Kampala, Uganda, the government-owned New Vision said the war represented "the birth of global dictatorship."

In Beijing, the government-owned Renmin Ribao said the war also marked the day when bombs — and not international laws — "baldly became the most important factor in regional and overseas conflicts."

Indeed, foreign media outlets sometimes report stories that are unlikely to appear in the United States, mainly because of questions about their veracity.

On Tuesday, for example, the London-based Arabic daily Al Quds Al Arabi reported that Vice President Dick Cheney was soon headed to Amman, Jordan to try to persuade his daughter not to become one of the "human shields" protecting against U.S. attacks.

Cheney's office flatly denied the conjecture.