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Peter Arnett, the only television correspondent to remain in Baghdad during the Gulf War, will be Harvard Law School's Commencement speaker, members of the Senior Class Committee announced yesterday.
According to third-year law student Sarah L. Whitson, a member of the committee, the 56-year-old Arnett will speak about the importance of a free press and public awareness in times of war.
"We think his coverage of the war raised important issues about the role of reporters and the public's right to know," Whitson said, adding that Arnett could be a role model for students with privileged educations. "He risked his life for what he believed in, being the best reporter he could be, and refused to be limited by the public's pro-war mood."
In the months since the war, the New Zealand-born Arnett has toured much of the world, speaking to journalists and students about his experiences and about the importance of full public knowledge about the realities of war.
His daughter, Elsa Arnett '89, a former Crimson editor, expressed happiness about the prospect of her father speaking at the Law School, adding that he will spend the next two weeks in New Zealand. "They are preparing a meeting with the cabinet and a parade for him."
Peter Arnett has throughout his 30-year career often found himself in the midst of controversies about the role of the press and public information. During the Vietnam War, he was famous for his daring reporting from being enemy lines.
As the only remaining Western journalist in war-time Baghdad, Arnett issued daily reports via satellite to millions of viewers around the world.
Arnett, who had to report under strict Iraqi censorship rules, faced attacks from many groups which accused him of undermining Western efforts and collaborating with the enemy. U.S. Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) even went so far as to call him a "sympathizer" and raised questions about his marriage to a Vietnamese woman.
Peter Arnett will speak on June 5 at 2 p.m. in the Ames Courtroom of Austin Hall, and the speech will be open to all students.
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