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Re: [casi-analysis] Harris (*not* Rendon) to develop Iraqi Media Network

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1) U.S. Journalist Quits Pentagon Iraqi Media Project Calling it U.S.

2) Iraq: [Media] Project Frustration



Wednesday, January 14th, 2004
U.S. Journalist Quits Pentagon Iraqi Media Project Calling it U.S.

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
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
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
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"


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.
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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."


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

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

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

--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

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" <>
To: "as-ilas" <>
Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2004 1:58 AM
Subject: Re: [casi-analysis] Harris (*not* Rendon) to develop Iraqi Media

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,

The Boeing Company Awards HARRIS Corporation $1.3 Million Avionics Contract
for the AH-64D Apache Helicopter

MELBOURNE, Florida, March, 6, 2001 - HARRIS Corporation, a world leader in
high-capacity avionics networks and digital moving maps for military

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