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Commentary :: Media

Media under Military Control

The US government buys journalists and dares to speak of freedom of the press. The gap between theory and praxis could hardly be greater.

While praising freedom of the press and democracy as values, the Pentagon buys journalists

By William Fisher (IPS), New York

[This article published in: Junge Welt, 1/2/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

With the “Edward R. Murrow Journalism Program,” the US State Department has organized an international exchange program for around 100 journalists. The initiative is named after the US radio journalist Edward R. Murrow famous for his radio reporting in the Second World War from London and the intrepid unmasking of the communist smear campaign in the McCarthy era. “We all know that a free press is the bedrock of a free society and the foundation of every democracy,” US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the start of the program, a joint project of the education and culture division of her department, the Aspen Institute and the journalism schools of six US universities.

He official goal of the program is “to outfit journalists from all over the world in the spirit of Murrow’s integrity, ethics and civil courage with first-hand knowledge about the US and American values and to go to battle for democracy and freedom of the press. A symposium is planned for April where representatives of the journalist guild and high-caliber personalities from American politics will participate. The themes freedom of speech and the importance of a well-informed public will be on the agenda. All this sounds good but fills critical observers with sheer rage. “What is central here is control of the media,” said IPS Beau Grosscup from the University of California in Chico. The US government buys journalists and dares to speak of freedom of the press. He gap between theory and praxis could hardly be greater. The new program is not at all consistent with the recently disclosed fact that the pentagon hired the PR firm Lincoln group to pay Iraqi journalists or publishing articles that came directly from the pen of the American military and distorted developments in Iraq.

In one of its last editions, the Washington Post revealed that a group of US Marines – frustrated about the continuously bad press about their operations in Iraq – invited a former soldier and impassioned blogger Bill Roggio from New Jersey to completely change the reporting from the front. Roggio pocketed $30,000 for the flight, technical equipment and protective clothing and carried out his Internet journal from a Marine base near the Syrian border. “The reporting from Iraq did not please me,” Roggio wrote in an E-mail. He was annoyed about supposedly balanced news that played down the military successes and upgraded the smallest victories of the rebels and Jihadists. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank with headquarters in Washington, certified the credibility of the blogger who appeared without an affiliated institution.

The Washington Post also revealed that the US military pays television stations in three Iraqi cities for positive reporting. It referred to an army spokesperson who said one of the stations received equipment in the amount of $35,000. $300,000 for a new building and another $600 per week for a program about the blessings of American actions in Iraq. The program contents referred to “proposals” of American officers and were examined before the broadcast, a lieutenant colonel confirmed. He didn’t want to know anything about payments to the station. However the Iraqi TV producer admitted to the newspaper that his employees received about $1000 in a month from the US military.



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