US sets up free press in Iraq – Nah not really.

Julia Baird has written an interesting article in The Sydney Morning Herald about the US trying to establish a free press in Iraq, but at the same time submitting fake stories and propaganda to that same press.

IN A speech to the International Republican Institute in May 2005, George Bush said democracies were built on common foundations and included fundamental rights: “First, all successful democracies need freedom of speech, with a vibrant free press that informs the public, ensures transparency, and prevents authoritarian backsliding.”

Given the US has spent a fortune trying to nurture a free press in Iraq, you would hope they might lead by example. The revelations that the US military “information operations” troops have been paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories they wrote themselves are alarming.

This is not how you establish a democracy.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the US military has been working through a Washington defence contractor, the Lincoln Group, which translated their stories into Arabic, and peddled them to media outlets, offering to pay money and posing as freelance journalists or advertising executives. The stories were critical of insurgents, praised US attempts to restore democracy to the country and were mostly presented as independent, unbiased news reports. They have also been paying monthly stipends to some Iraqi journalists.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise – this Administration has been caught out concocting stories before. Earlier this year, reports emerged of the US Government paying newspaper columnists to support their policies, and issuing news tapes featuring fake reporters filmed talking about current events – the footage was given free to television stations across America. Some stations played them without attribution. In 2002, the Pentagon closed the Orwellian-sounding Office of Strategic Influence, established just a year before, after stories ran in the press alleging they had developed plans to place false stories in the global media.



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