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[casi] Censorship - no change there either




Published on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 by Reuters
New Iraqi TV Complains of US Censorship
by Saul Hudson

BAGHDAD -- The US-sponsored Iraqi television station began broadcasts
yesterday after complaining of American censorship, including efforts to
stop it from airing passages from the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
At the start of what is being trumpeted as a new broadcasting era in a
nation fed on a diet of state propaganda, Baghdad residents with electricity
saw the Iraqi flag appear on their screens as a pan-Arab nationalist anthem
played.
Deprived of any locally produced television since US troops ousted Saddam
Hussein, Iraqis watched canned interviews and decades-old music shows.
But the Iraqi Media Network postponed plans to air a half-hour live news
program because of disputes over editorial control.
''As journalists we will not submit to censorship,'' said Dan North, a
Canadian documentary maker advising Iraqis at the station, which plans two
hours of programming a night for viewers.
''This whole idea was about starting the genesis of an open media, so we
will not accept an outside source scrutinizing what we produce.''
The allegations of censorship could reaffirm for many Iraqis the perception
that Washington is not allowing them a free hand in building democratic
institutions.
''All my neighbors say this TV is controlled by the Americans to get out
their point of view,'' said Abbas Mohammed, a cakemaker. ''But I don't care
there was no news. In Iraq the news is always bad.''
US officials made no comment on the censorship allegations. They had earlier
said the station would be a welcome change from the Hussein era.
''This is not American propaganda. This is the first time in 25 years Iraqis
are getting TV that is not propaganda,'' said Robert Teasdale, a US adviser
to the network.
But North said the US-led administration's Office of Reconstruction and
Humanitarian Assistance had requested the station's news programs be
reviewed by the wife of Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader and a major figure
in the postwar politics of Iraq. ''Could you imagine a political leader
being able to check the content of any Western media?'' North said.
The news program would be postponed for a week because of the wrangling,
said North, himself hired by the Office of Reconstruction.
The network did air verses from the Koran, a tradition in Middle Eastern
countries. Iraqi workers had threatened to walk out if the verses were
dropped at the behest of the Office of Reconstruction.
An eleventh-hour programming change yesterday cut an address by Jay Garner,
who was replaced as US administrator in Iraq.
The station broadcast canned packages, including an interview with an
electricity official and soundbites from Iraqis outside a hospital
complaining of a lack of medicine.
 Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd
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