Thursday, December 15, 2005

Military Investigating Alleged Payments To Iraqi Journalists To Produce "Good News" Stories

The U.S. military is investigating allegations that the American military is buying positive coverage in the Iraqi media is examining a press club founded and financed by the U.S. Army.

The ever-expanding investigation into U.S. propaganda efforts is being headed by Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk. He will look into whether there were efforts to place U.S.-produced stories into the local press without identifying the United States as the source. Paying reporters directly to write positive stories might also violate ethical guidelines.

If true, it doesn't say much for U.S. credibility as a purveyor of democracy, given that one of our nation's founding principles is a free press.

***

The Baghdad Press Club was created last year by the U.S. military as a way to promote progress amid the violence and chaos of Iraq, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman.

The Army acknowledges funding the club and offering "reporter compensation," but insists officers did not demand favorable coverage. "Members are not required nor asked to write favorably," said Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone. "They are simply invited to report on events."

To JABBS' ears, that spin sounds all too familiar.

It's a similar concept to what President Bush said in March, defending the administration's use of undocumented video news releases -- something the non-partisan General Accountability Office labeled "covert propaganda."

BUSH: "There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are OK so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy. And I expect our agencies to adhere to that ruling."

Amazingly, Bush was suggesting that propaganda created by the government was not "advocacy" -- as if his administration would pay a journalist or create a video news release to oppose the administration.

Similarly, it's hard to believe the Army would pay Iraqi journalists to write "negative" stories about the U.S.-led effort in Iraq.

But, according to Iraqi reporters, the Army is paying Iraqi reporters to avoid actual war coverage and focus on "good news" stories, such as restored sewage plants and newly-opened schools.

Baghdad Press Club members -- 25 to 30 freelance reporters and staff employees for television stations and newspapers -- were paid about $25 for each story and $45 if the piece ran with photos. Television reporters were paid $50 for pieces. That's a handsome amount of money, given that the average Iraqi earns less than $300 per month.

***

The Army spin is also hard to believe because it comes on the heels of an investigation concluded this month by the Los Angeles Times, which obtained documents revealing that the Pentagon is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish dozens of "good news" stories, written by American troops.

The articles are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a Washington-based defense contractor, Lincoln Group. Many are falsely presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists -- such as in Al Mutamar, a Baghdad-based daily owned by friends of Bush Administration ally Ahmed Chalabi.

Van Buskirk is also examining the evidence obtained by the Times.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Rav. Ric Rude said...

If it's not bad news, how on earth could it possibly be true, right. Ever hear of the "power of positive thinking?" It's been known to move mountains. But nevermind that, lets just tell Iraqi citizens what Howard Dean wants everyone to know: That America can't win the war. Bitter Libs won't be happy until this Great country is on its knees. Thank God they are an ever shrinking minority.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous ash said...

Uh, Rich, sorry to sprinkle your illusion with truth but that minority stuff? you got it backward.

At least your post didn't come across as bad satire. As for "positive thinking," sorry, doesn't apply here.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Arkansas Granny said...

This seems to be a Bush specialty. Allow the perpetrators to investigate themselves. I'm sure we will get an accurate, unbiased report.

11:30 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Rick promoted himself to Reverend?

Rick, you missed the point of the article. The point is not that there are good news stories in Iraq. The point is that the military:

a) paid a contractor to have employees pose as journalists to plant stories in the Iraqi press.

b) paid Iraqi journalists ridiculous -- by Iraqi standards -- money to write good news stories and place them in the Iraqi press.

In neither case, apparently, were any of these stories labeled as "U.S.-financed."

When the government controls the press, that's called propaganda. In the U.S., it's illegal -- although the Bush Administration was caught perpetuating it last year.

If this were a communist country, you'd be up in arms. Or did you support Pravda as being a fine example of journalism?

Assuming you don't support government-controlled media in say, China or Cuba, then why would you support it here or in the burgeoning democracy of Iraq? Why is it ok for the U.S. to be behind propaganda efforts, but not Fidel Castro?

Rick, rather than resort to third-grader tactics of name calling, how about a serious discussion of the issue? How about actually examining the very legitimate news -- the military is, after all, investigating the allegations -- and offer your take?

Because, Rick, when your first response is to simply lash out like a child, you don't support conservative thinking. Quite the opposite. All it shows me is that you have no defense for what the government is doing, and desperately want to change the subject rather than face that reality.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put, Alias cutiepie.
I would only add that Bush himself pointed out in his "Plan for Victory" fiction a few weeks ago that one of the main indicators that Iraq has given root to a Democracy was that it had in place one of the basic tenets of a Democracy: "freedom of the press" and freedom of speech.
When the Bush Administration plants stories in the Iraq media, it only demonstrates the hollowness of Bush's claim -- and the pitiful hypocrisy.
Pitiful that the MSM continues to give unchallenged credibility to Bush's statements.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Ric Rude said...

15 million Iraqis just gave all you defeatists the "finger."

4:55 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Given the chance to articulate a defense of alleged U.S. propaganda, both here and abroad, Ric Rude decides instead to resort to more third-grade tactics.

Bravo, Ric. You prove how inane you are with each passing comment. Are you incapable of defending conservative thought, or are you really this limited?

What does your comment mean? Who are "defeatists?" People who stand up against military propaganda?

If that's the case, then I guess the military are defeatists, since they are the ones who are investigating?

Are people who believe in the Bill of Rights "defeatists?" Because our Bill of Rights guarantees a free press -- not a government-controlled press, as you would find in various dictatorships around the world.

So, what do you mean when you say "you defeatists," Ric?

I'm guessing you don't mean anything. You're just lashing out like a four-year-old who won't get any ice cream tonight. You aren't willing to take these issues seriously -- just like those who break the law want.

Those who resort to propaganda demand an ignorant society, Ric.

Anytime you want to be serious, please offer your thoughts.

5:07 PM  

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