Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Free(ish) speech in Iraqi journalism

In another ironic twist of the war in Iraq, it turns out that the Pentagon has hired outside contractors to pay Iraqi news organization and their employees to write--and publish--positive news about the war. And according to a U.S. Defense Department review of this plan, it's all legal.

As the Washington Post suggests in a October 23 editorial (which can be read here), the American military has its reasons for wanting the Iraqi people to think things are going well. But there's a major error in this reasoning. In a war that is supposed to be about bringing democracy to a former military dictatorship, something is more than a bit off with America's attempts to make the Iraqi press not quite as free as our own.

Here in America, free speech and the vital role of the press in maintaining it is one of the most important parts of the working democracy. We take issue when politicians try to limit the power of the pen or to operate it themselves. So how is it legitimate to do the same under our watch in a different part of the world?

In a statment relesed to the Post, the Pentagon argued that "the current situation in Iraq necessitates that the coalition maintain the capability to communicate with the Iraqi people via the Iraqi media."

Apparently that means communicating our interests first, and everything else in a distant second.



At Tuesday, October 24, 2006, Anonymous AJ said...

I'm with you. It is hypocritical for the government to help democratize Iraq by exerting secret control over the press.

But I must say I am also not surprised. The military doesn't even try to pretend that its interested in obeying any laws that will conflict with its mission, although I'm not sure what the goal in Iraq is anymore.

This story is a reminder of why its so important for journalists to be "watchdogs." If unchecked, the government will do just about anything--like violating the privacy rights of Americans in the name of stopping terrorism.

At Wednesday, October 25, 2006, Anonymous TD said...

This seems very fishy to me. I don't think the Pentagon should tell the press in Iraq to report in a positive manner.

Journalists need to stand up to the government and question decisions. Just like they should have done about the war in Iraq initially.


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