The U.S. military command in Baghdad acknowledged for the first time yesterday that it has paid Iraqi newspapers to carry positive news about U.S. efforts in Iraq, but officials characterized the payments as part of a legitimate campaign to counter insurgents’ misinformation.
In a statement, the command said the program included efforts, “customary in Iraq,” to purchase advertising and place clearly labeled opinion pieces in Iraqi newspapers. But the statement suggested that the “information operations” program may have veered into a gray area where government contractors paid to have articles placed in Iraqi newspapers without explaining that the material came from the U.S. military and that Iraqi journalists were paid to write positive accounts.
“Serious allegations have been raised that suggest the process may be functioning in a manner different than is intended or appropriate,” the statement said. Commanders are “reviewing these allegations and will investigate any improprieties,” it said.
The statement from Baghdad was the first official effort to explain the media initiative after three days of news reports describing efforts by the U.S. military to plant stories in Iraqi media under the guise of independent journalism. [more]
Ah, what a way to spread democracy…by telling people you’re spreading democracy!
In related news there is a documentary I saw last night on the CBC called Targets by an Iranian Canadian filmmaker about Journalists in Iraq. Did you know more journalists have died in Iraq thus far than in the whole Vietnam war? It’s a rather good documentary, you may not agree with all of it as I did not but it does put a human face on Iraqi suffering, something you never hear about in the American press (strangly enough). In one scene American soldiers shoot a slow moving car that approaches a checkpoint in the dark. The car careens to the side and as the doors open a few children topple out. Miraculously they are unhardmed from the gunfire, so to speak, but the brains of their parents are smeared across the dashboard.
Incidents like this have happened many times in Iraq and the rationale is that all cars approaching these checkpoints are potential car bombers. So as a safe gaurd the troops put signs that say: “Please, A Very Serious Warning – We are authorized to fire on any vehicle that approaches the convoy less than 50 meters“
I’m guessing they were moving slowly because they had trouble reading a sign that was 50 meters away in the dark.
By the way, the signs have been updated to 100 meters now. Can you read a sign that far away?