THE IRAQ CONFLICT: News Agencies Lose Battle on the Internet

Article excerpt

THE INTERNET has democratised everything - including being a war correspondent. "Air raid sirens in baghdad but the only sounds you can here [sic] are the anti-aircraft machine guns. will go now." And so "Salam Pax" (not his real name, but that is not revealed) signed off at 5.46am yesterday as the first cruise missiles headed for Baghdad, where he was sitting at a computer.

Quickly labelled the "Baghdad Blogger", Salam (who seems to be an architectural engineer) is one of the growing group of "bloggers" - people posting online diaries - who can spread news as quickly as news organisations, without needing to excite viewers or win advertisers; they can just report the boring, grainy detail of real life.

"Today the Baath party people started taking their places in the trenches and main squares and intersections, fully armed and freshly shaven. They looked too clean and well groomed to defend anything," Salam, who uses the Iraqi internet service provider, posted at about midnight on Thursday.

If the 1991 Gulf War was the first one shown in full on television, the second is the first whose content and political ramifications are being fought out on both sides over the Web.

Though some people doubted that "Salam" was authentic, pictures on his weblog (at http://dear_raed. …