The Iraqi government today expelled a British correspondent for "writing lies" about the war with Iran, and placed severe restrictions of movement of the remaining journalists here.
The Agency correspondent, Jeremy Clift of the Reuter Agency's Beirut bureau, was escorted to a taxi by an official of the Ministry of Information and ordered to leave by way of Kuwait. The offending article reported that Iraq's economy had begun to show signs of deterioration as a result of the war with Iran.
About 50 other correspondents, who had complained to information ministry officials about tight restrictions on their coverage of the war, were told their movements would be controlled even more in the future.
Nizar Samari, undersecretary of the ministry, said "no more trips (to the front). There will be nothing." He said correspondents could remain in Iraq until their visas expired, and then "only 10 new ones" would be allowed in to cover the entire country.
In the early stages of the war, foreign correspondents were able to simply hire taxis at exorbitant prices and drive to the front, relying on resourcefulness and fast talk to get them through military checkpoint.
This still happens, occasionaly, but for the most part the Ministry of Information has taken charge of the coverage and has programmed it according to its wants. Groups of correspondents have been taken by ministry officials to the front lines, but have been steered away from areas in which there is said to be stiff resistance by Iranian regular troops and Revolutionary Guards.
Ministry officials deny that they are trying to hide losses by the Iraqi Army, and say that army commanders in the field had complained that the reporters were interfering with military operations by being at the front. However, field commanders have repeatedly told the correspondents they are welcome at the front lines.