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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] 1) U.S. Journalist Quits Pentagon Iraqi Media Project Calling it U.S. Propaganda 2) Iraq: [Media] Project Frustration ------------ 1) http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/01/14/1555223 Wednesday, January 14th, 2004 U.S. Journalist Quits Pentagon Iraqi Media Project Calling it U.S. Propaganda We talk to a longtime TV producer about the massive problems he saw in the new U.S.-funded Iraqi Media Network, which he said became an "irrelevant mouthpiece for Coalition Provisional Authority propaganda, managed news and mediocre programs." [includes transcript] The U.S. has awarded a $96 million contract to a U.S. producer of communications equipment, Harris Corp., to create a U.S.-funded national media network in Iraq. According to the head of Harris Corp, the Iraqi Media Network will have 30 TV and radio transmitters, three broadcast studios, and 12 bureaus around Iraq. After U.S.-led troops ousted Saddam Hussein's regime in April, the state-run broadcasters were seized. Since then, they have been run by a U.S. defense contractor, Science Applications International Corporation. Its efforts have come under criticism by many Iraqis, unsatisfied about its content. We talk to a longtime TV producer, Don North, about the problems he saw in the starting of the network. He recently wrote an article for TelevisionWeek titled "Iraq Project Frustration: One Newsman's Take On How Things Went Wrong" Don North, independent journalist and video producer who went to Iraq to help form the Iraqi Media Network. He recently wrote an article for TelevisionWeek titled "Iraq Project Frustration: One Newsman's Take On How Things Went Wrong" TRANSCRIPT This transcript is available free of charge, however donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution. Donate - $25, $50, $100, more... AMY GOODMAN: Today we'll talk to a long-time TV producer, Don North, about the problems he saw in starting the network. He recently wrote an article for "Television Week" entitled, Iraq Project Frustration. One Newsman's Take on How Things Went Wrong." Don North joins us on the phone. Welcome to Democracy Now!. DON NORTH: Good morning, Amy. AMY GOODMAN: You can tell us your story. When did you go to Iraq, who were you working for and what were you doing there? DON NORTH: I first went to Iraq in February and joined my old buddies the 101st Airborne to go into Iraq with them and make a TV documentary. I had been with the 101st covering them as a journalist in Vietnam, it was great to be back with the 101st. After the fall of Baghdad, I was hired by S.A.I.C., Science Applications International, to help establish the Iraq Media Network, first radio and then television in Iraq. AMY GOODMAN: what exactly did you do? How did you establish it? DON NORTH: Well, we -- within a few days of landing in Baghdad, we were broadcasting radio to the Iraqi nation out of attempt in Baghdad and -- out of a tent in Baghdad. We were a small group of about oh, a dozen Americans, and Iraqi ex-pats who went in to do this. All of us experienced in various aspects of broadcasting and technical expertise, and we got radio going, and it was quite popular. The Iraqis obviously were happy to hear radio journalism that wasn't state controlled or Ba'athist or Saddam controlled, and initially, we were quite welcomed. Within a few weeks, we got television running. We went on the air may 13th with television. But unfortunately -- I mean, it's been nine months now since we established radio and television, presumably an independent democratic media. The Iraqis need a new voice, and somehow we have got it all mixed up. The coalition provisional authority, ambassador Bremer's organization, doesn't seem to be able to differentiate between public diplomacy, in other words telling Iraqis and the world what we Americans are trying to do in Iraq, and giving the Iraqis a voice of independence that they need themselves. That's been the problem. AMY GOODMAN: You can tuck about -- with you talk about who they chose to do the news? Who were the people who were creating it, and how much control did the U.S. Media have over the information and ultimately why you left? DON NORTH: Well, I think the people that were hired by S.A.I.C., if I may say so, including myself, were highly experienced people. I have been a journalist since I was 21, covering the Vietnam war. I have recurrently been involved in training journalists, particularly television and radio journalists in Bosnia, in Afghanistan and in Romania, particularly countries that are emerging from a tyranny so, I think I have a sense of what it was the Iraqis needed after 35 years of controlled media. Our news director was a young Iraqi ex-pat, Achmed Al-Rikabi, who had grown up in Sweden. And was a producer and reporter for Swedish television. He broadcast for the B.B.C. And he broadcast for the Free Iraq Radio. He was well respected by the Iraqis. But we immediately started clashing with coalition provisional authorities, who wanted control -- they just couldn't resist controlling the message. Unfortunately, they turned what should have been an independent voice for Iraqis -- this was our aim, to sort of make a PBS, a public broadcast radio and TV for the Iraqis. But instead, it just became a mouthpiece for the coalition, and the Iraqis didn't find it credible. They just thought of it as another voice of America, and turned to other satellite broadcasters like Al-Jazeera and Al-Alabira, Arabic stations broadcasting into Iraq. Those are the stations they're watching and not the station that was created for them. AMY GOODMAN: Don North, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We had a military wife on, who was describing her husband working with the Iraqi media as well. And he was saying that the Iraqis there were bristling under the U.S. Control was saying -- was calling the U.S. people in charge "Little Saddams" DON NORTH: Oh, dear. Well, it's unfortunate. I mean, with all of the best intentions, we are trying to bring democracy to Iraq in a way and in a way, we are imposing democracy, and a free and independent media is the bullwork, the cornerstone of any democracy. But somehow, even though we are -- ourselves are have created and have established a marvelous democracy of our own, we don't seem to be able to transfer this and export this to people who are hungry for it and really want it like the Iraqis. AMY GOODMAN: Don North, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Don North has written a piece in "Television Week" about the Iraqi media called "Iraq -- Project Frustration. One Newsman's Take on How Things Went Wrong." -------------- 2) http://www.tvweek.com/topstorys/121503iraqproject.html Iraq: Project Frustration One Newsman's Take on How Things Went Wrong By Don North Special to TelevisionWeek In the chill January days when Pentagon officials were mapping the blueprint for a new Iraq, a paper was circulated here in Washington proposing a free, impartial and independent Iraqi Media Network. The paper stated, "Whilst democracy requires a free press, at the same time it requires one that is accountable to the society and the individuals within it, which it serves." It was a good plan. It would model IMN as a public broadcast network similar to PBS or the BBC, two of the most respected broadcasters in the world. So I joined a small group of American and Iraqi expatriate journalists who signed on to bring honest and professional radio and TV to Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. The Iraq Media Network went on the air with radio April 10 and television May 13. It was greeted with great anticipation by Iraqis, who expected that after 35 years of Saddam Hussein's self-serving propaganda, a new free and democratic media would be created that would make the new governing elements transparent and accountable and generate credible debate on the reconstruction of Iraq. Iraqis were already grumbling that they were not safe in the streets, that it took three hours waiting in line to buy a tank of gas and that electricity had not been effectively restored. Even so, there were high hopes that American know-how would at least deliver what Americans do best-innovative, interesting television entertainment and reasonably honest news. Now seven months later, like so many of the goals and hopes for the new Iraq, a credible media has not been realized. The failure to establish television "accountable to the society" is strongly felt. Instead, IMN has become an irrelevant mouthpiece for Coalition Provisional Authority propaganda, managed news and mediocre programs. I have trained journalists after the fall of tyrannies in Bosnia, Romania and Afghani-stan. I don't blame the Iraqi journalists for the failure of IMN. They daily ignore serious threats branding them "American collaborators" and work for insufficient salaries. Although unschooled in the basic principles of democratic journalism, once they realized it was OK to responsibly confront authority, they caught on fast. It was in this geographic region that the first written words were recorded 5,000 years ago and where the first laws, the Code of Hammurabi, were enacted. This highly literate society hungers for intelligent communication and a responsible media. There is a saying in the Middle East that Cairo writes, Beirut publishes and Baghdad reads. Few people take pride in a free press more than Americans. Since the fall of Baghdad, more than 207 new publications have sprung up along with IMN and a handful of radio stations. It was a complicated media world I joined in Iraq. Most publications are sponsored by political or religious interest groups with rigid agendas. Some Iraqi editors even embraced the advice of a Chicago Tribune editor during the Civil War; "If no news, send rumors." Some 5,000 employees of the old Ministry of Information were sent packing after the war. Many were trained propagandists for Saddam. They simply went home and continued writing lies and disinformation. Obviously, journalism training was urgently needed. A brutal form of training was delivered by the U.S. Army and CPA officials when they found stories offensive. They visited the offices of offending newspapers and often left them padlocked and in ruins. No mediation, no appeal. If The Washington Post reported terrorist threats or bin Laden statements in Baghdad today, it would probably be closed down. My Iraq journalist friends tell me that CPA's "Code of Conduct," which bans "intemperate speech that could incite violence," is "selective democracy," similar in spirit if not in effect to censorship by Saddam Hussein. Iraqi journalists also tell me they suspect it was at the urging of CPA that the Iraqi Governing Council banned Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya satellite news from its news conferences for two weeks last October, which only served to further diminish credibility for the council, already regarded with suspicion by many Iraqis. Since then, Al Arabiya's office in Baghdad has been closed by the CPA and the Governing Council. What should be America's greatest exports to the world-our Bill of Rights and the First Amendment-could have been effectively transplanted here and encouraged to grow as one of the foundations of a just society. It didn't happen. The original plan for IMN appears to have been jettisoned by officials at CPA who were more interested in managing news for both Iraqis and Americans. The United States has a responsibility to effectively explain its positions and policies to Iraqis, to Americans and to the world, but not at the price of making IMN into another Voice of America. Through a combination of incompetence and indifference, CPA has destroyed the fragile credibility of IMN. Once diminished, credibility is hard to restore. The reasons are many: --A revolving door of officials with no credible television or journalism experience dictated plans and policy to IMN. --A surprising lack of operating capital, in spite of IMN's being the most expensive U.S. government media project in history at an estimated $4 million a month, forced IMN to run on a shoestring and look like it. There were no funds for basic equipment such as camera batteries, tripods or editing equipment. A $500 request for a satellite dish to downlink the Reuters news feed was refused. A $200 request for printing my training manual in Arabic for reporters was turned down. --Lack of planning for program production or acquisition resulted in illegal airing of copyrighted European and Hollywood film tapes confiscated from the mansion of Saddam's son Uday. --IMN staff were ordered to cover endless daily CPA news conferences, interviews and photo opportunities, leaving little time and few facilities to cover genuine news stories initiated by IMN reporters on the street. --The right of "collective bargaining," another American concept, was trashed by CPA management when IMN staff twice went on strike for higher wages. IMN staff were told in effect, "Our way or the highway." CPA based staff salaries on the old Ministry of Information pay scale, which paid a reporter the equivalent of 120 U.S. dollars a month. Some staff members have already quit to join agencies that pay market rates. --The first news director, Ahmad Al Rikaby, a sort of Arabic Tom Brokaw, was a respected and credible Iraqi expatriate journalist, well known as the voice of Radio Free Iraq. Al Rikaby had resisted CPA dictates demanding managed news. When he fired staff troublemakers or Baathists, CPA rehired them and insisted only it could hire or fire IMN staff. Al Rikaby's authority was so compromised he resigned. --IMN was envisioned to help Iraqis talk to each other. It was to be a national media voice that would give them a sense of nationhood and identity. It was to be a chance for communicating among the regions, political factions and religions of Iraq. It was to be an answering voice to those who would keep enmity alive by exploiting the differences and continuing to fragment the society Saddam built. It was to have established credible news and public affairs programs in regional stations that could be rebroadcast on the network, allowing Kurd, Shia and Sunni to hear each other's points of view. This would have at least helped bandage old wounds. It would have encouraged discussion and debate for the direction of a new Iraq. Although CPA improved transmitter and broadcast facilities throughout Iraq, it failed miserably to persuade staff in many regional stations to cooperate with IMN. The 101st Airborne, using contingency funds, has largely sponsored the broadcast station in Mosul, Iraq, which has resisted being folded into the IMN family and accepting the base salaries being paid in Baghdad. --Incredibly, the vital training of IMN reporters was turned over to Dubai satellite stations Al Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, which often produce slanted, biased and anti-American news. --Instead of creating and encouraging local TV productions, CPA bought old programs from Middle East Broadcasting and Lebanese Broadcasting. --CPA didn't allow its journalists to edit, analyze or otherwise "filter" its news conferences, interviews and photo ops. Public diplomacy is one thing, but CPA has ignored our own democratic ideals in its role as the overseer of IMN. Destroying the credibility of IMN has left CPA without an effective communications conduit to the Iraqi people. A recent State Department poll revealed that little more than one out of every 10 Iraqis watches IMN. Two out of three said they watch Al-Jazeera or Al Arabiya on satellite. If Ambassador Paul Bremer wants his views heard by the Iraqi people, he should buy time on Al Jazeera. --The British government program "Toward Freedom" was scheduled daily in spite of strong objections of the IMN staff. This hour-long program, directly financed by No. 10 Downing Street, is aired without attribution. Iraqis conditioned by 35 years of Saddam's State Television recognize propaganda when they see it. Instead of effectively controlling the problems, CPA in November changed IMN's name to Iraqia Network and hired the J. Walter Thompson company to mount a publicity campaign to convince Iraqis that IMN or Iraqia was credible. The stakes are high and getting higher every day. President George W. Bush has spoken of "engaging in the battle of ideas in the Arab world." But in Iraq we have already lost the first round by failing to establish credible media, let alone influencing the rest of the Arab world. In 1968 on the wall of the U.S. Embassy lobby in Saigon, I noticed a framed quotation from "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," by T.E. Lawrence: "It is better that they do it imperfectly than that you do it perfectly. For it is their war and their country and your time here is limited." It seemed like a good idea to Lawrence in 1917, and it seemed like an even better idea to me in Vietnam in 1968. So 35 years later I gave that same quote to both Jay Garner and Paul Bremer, our proconsuls in Baghdad, and respectfully suggested they keep it in mind. There is no evidence that either of them ever did. Forget the colonial attitude of "Lawrence of Arabia" and his heirs that the locals would only do it "imperfectly." Iraqis are in fact much better suited to repairing 1950s technology in electric power stations and collecting street intelligence to combat terrorism, and yes, Iraqis are entirely capable of reporting and producing television news and entertainment for their fellow Iraqis. It is time to show Iraqis the respect due by letting them do it themselves. It is time to help them to select their own path to a democratic new Iraq. As John Milton urged in 1644 before the British Parliament, "Let truth and falsehood grapple. Who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"# Don North is an independent producer, journalist and journalism teacher based in Fairfax, Va. He was a correspondent in Vietnam, Washington and the Middle East for ABC and NBC News. He accepted a position with the defense contractor Science Applications International in January 2003 and arrived in Baghdad April 20 as senior TV adviser and trainer for IMN. He left Baghdad on July 24. ----- Original Message ----- From: "ppg" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "as-ilas" <email@example.com> Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2004 1:58 AM Subject: Re: [casi-analysis] Harris (*not* Rendon) to develop Iraqi Media Network I think we might all understand just what HARRIS, who will be OPERATING broadcast media and newspapers in Iraq is in fact. HARRIS is *not*, as I had supposed merely a US pr media oufit like Rendon. Harris is major part of the military crony network..eg, --------------------------------- The Boeing Company Awards HARRIS Corporation $1.3 Million Avionics Contract for the AH-64D Apache Helicopter http://tinyurl.com/2gmr5 MELBOURNE, Florida, March, 6, 2001 - HARRIS Corporation, a world leader in high-capacity avionics networks and digital moving maps for military _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk