Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Truth About the "Free Press"

The LA Times has uncovered the use of planted, US written pro-American stories in the "free" Iraqi press. The unnamed source towards the end if the excerpt sums this up perfectly by basically stating the US is sending mixed messages and democratic double standards.span>

The military’s effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are vowing to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech to a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption. It comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled “The Role of Press in a Democratic Society.”

Underscoring the importance U.S. officials place on development of a Western-style media, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday cited the proliferation of news organizations in Iraq as one of the country’s great successes since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The hundreds of newspapers, television stations and other “free media” offer a “relief valve” for the Iraqi public to debate the issues of their burgeoning democracy, Rumsfeld said.
The military’s information operations campaign has sparked a backlash among some senior military officers in Iraq and at the Pentagon who argue that attempts to subvert the news media could destroy the U.S. military’s credibility both in foreign nations and with the American public.

“Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we’re breaking all the first principles of democracy when we’re doing it,” said a senior Pentagon official who opposes the practice of planting stories in the Iraqi media.

The arrangement with Lincoln Group is evidence of how far the Pentagon has moved to blur the traditional boundaries between military public affairs -- the dissemination of truthful information to the media -- and psychological and information operations, which use propaganda and sometimes misleading information to advance the objectives of a military campaign.

The Bush administration has come under criticism for distributing video and news stories in the United States without identifying the federal government as their source and for paying American journalists to promote administration policies, practices the Government Accountability Office has labeled “covert propaganda.”


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