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Fallujah a 'challenge' for reporters

By Tom Esslemont

Journalists were prevented from entering Fallujah.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Reporting the battle in Fallujah is one of the greatest challenges journalists have faced, according to BBC World Affairs Editor, John Simpson.

Simpson, a veteran reporter, was hosting the "On The Media Frontline" conference at the Imperial War Museum in London on Wednesday.

The panel discussed the effects of 24-hour rolling news on the manner in which war is reported.

Simpson said journalists were often called upon to talk about ongoing events in Fallujah without knowing what was actually happening on the ground.

The pressure of rolling, real-time news is that the reporter has to rely more and more on his or her own judgment, he said.

Foreign journalists were prevented from entering Fallujah for three days because the town was under siege and the dangers were considered too great.

Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor of Channel 4 News, said: "Any pictures that emerged in the first few days were thanks to 'extremely brave Arab cameramen.'"

More recently, reporters have once again been embedded with U.S. Marines attempting to regain control of the town.

"The difficulty lies in getting to a place that is totally ringed off," Simpson said. "The act of traveling to such places is the most dangerous thing to do."

Hilsum said she had witnessed many young reporters attempting to launch their careers in Iraq by putting themselves in the line of fire to get the best pictures.

She also said 24-hour rolling news puts pressure on reporters "to say not a lot about not very much again and again and again."

Hilsum said she was lucky to have the time each day to reflect on which aspects of the day's events to include in a news program, rather than showing repetitive lengthy pieces of footage that do not always tell the story.

Although the panel could not agree whether 24-hour news hindered or helped analyze ongoing conflicts, it stopped short of condemning rolling news channels for "sanitizing" news.

Tim Marshall, Foreign Editor of Sky News, said it was in no-one's interest for the pictures of dead coalition soldiers to be broadcast.

Members of the panel agreed the viewer did not want to see pictures of dismembered bodies.

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