Saddam on CBS and Arafat on IBA interviewing the enemy on television

Tamar Liebes*, Zohar Kampf, Shoshana Blum-Kulka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The two cases analyzed here demonstrate a new journalistic practice of interviewing enemy leaders at times of war. We argue that whereas traditionally journalists had accepted the principle that when the nation is under threat, patriotism precedes professionalism, in the new media environment, with the domestic public exposed to international TV channels, this is no longer an option. As a result, journalists act more independently, even when this entails public resentment and government disapproval. We demonstrate how in interviewing enemy leaders, journalists play the part of politicians once diplomatic negotiations have ceased. Although such interviews provide high ratings and amplify the relevance of journalism at times of war, the irregular settings in which they are conducted undermine the journalists' endeavor. From the interviews we examined, it emerges that the cross pressures on the interviewers lead to a questioning style that deviates significantly from normative news interviews. Interviewers tend to be dragged to one of the extremes of hostility or deference. Finally, we show how the ways in which domestic governments respond to these interviews serve as additional evidence of their controversial character.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)311-329
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Iraq war
  • Journalistic practices
  • News interviews
  • Political discourse
  • Second Palestinian Intifada
  • Wartime journalism


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