Web logs are feeding the public's increasing appetite for news and information about the war with Iraq, with a new breed known as 'war blogs' operating from within the war arena.

One of the most popular web logs since the start of the war is dear_raed.blogspot.com, apparently written by an Iraqi man based in Baghdad under the pseudonym Salam Pax. His site until recently provided a first-hand account of events in Iraq.

"There are no waving masses of people welcoming the Americans, nor are they surrendering by the thousands. People are doing what all of us are, sitting in their homes and hoping that a bomb doesn't fall on them," Salam wrote last Sunday (23 March 2003)

His first entry was recorded in September last year (2003) during the build-up to war and was last updated on Monday (24 March 2003). At that point, he described how internet access had temporarily been lost in the capital. As there have been no further updates since then, it would appear that he has again lost his online access.

The increasing popularity of war blogs lies in their distinctiveness from the traditional media. War bloggers are not obliged to record the opinion representative of their country, and are not edited in any way.

Some media outlets have been less than impressed by their correspondents' use of blogs, though.

CNN told their correspondent Kevin Sites to end his personal log of the war this week (24 March 2003) after he posted audio reports, photographs and accounts of his experiences in Iraq. The BBC has been more lenient, allowing reporters such as Stuart Hughes to write personal war blogs. It has also gone live with its own blog where correspondents are free to contribute their personal accounts.

"The BBC has cashed in on the blogging trend by running what is essentially a political diary alongside its news site and calling it a web log," said e-publishing course director at London's City University, Neil Thurman.

"Blogs are unique as they offer a diversity of voices and opinions and war blogs seem more immediate and real to readers than traditional news sites."

Soldiers from the war zone are also setting up war blogs to communicate with their families and relay the events in Iraq to their own countries. "Not only reporters, but people on the battle front can communicate with the world," said Jeff Jarvis, the president of Advance Publications Inc.'s Internet Operations.

Lt. Cmdr. Mickey is apparently another a war blogger from the front, who writes about life in the camp from the camp's own computer network. He has posted pictures, news of missile alerts and details about his experiences in the Iraqi desert.

As web logs are relatively simple to set up, and are generally anonymous, doubts arise as to their authenticity and legitimacy. Many have accused Salam Pax of being either a US or an Iraqi propagandist, prompting him to write on his blog: "Please stop sending me e-mails asking if I were for real, don't belive [sic] it? then don't read it.

"I am not anybody's propaganda ploy. Well, except my own."

However, the news-consuming public is equally sceptical of the impartiality of traditional media and are glad to include blogging sites in their consumption of war coverage.

"With the current situation in Iraq people don't want to restrict themselves by just watching the news on TV or looking at news web sites. They want to get a full idea of the scope of events and war blogs help them to do that," said Mr Thurman.

"They can be as revealing as the lead stories in the media at any given time."


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