Exporting Censorship to Iraq

The press system the occupying forces allow the Iraqis is far from free. American Prospect‘s Alex Gourevitch reports.

“On the one hand, the American presence in Iraq was intended to nurture basic democratic liberties. On the other, as an occupying power, the Americans needed to root out the Baathist regime and eradicate support for its values. For the The Iraqi Media Network (IMN), that meant serving as a model for a free press while at the same time ensuring that anti-American and pro-Baathist sentiments did not flourish on air. And it’s between that rock and a hard place that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the American-orchestrated transitional body running postwar Iraq, ran into trouble.

“As criticism of his authority appeared in Iraqi media, occupying authority chief L. Paul Bremer III placed controls on IMN content and clamped down on the independent media in Iraq, closing down some Iraqi-run newspapers and radio and television stations. Those actions led to charges by Iraqis and external observers that the Americans were touting liberty but ruling by tyranny. “You have this dynamic of nonexistent planning, no clear goals, uncertain allocation plans and failure,” says Anthony Borden, executive director of the Institute on War and Peace Reporting, about the entire media undertaking. Under the best of circumstances, managing the media in a newly destabilized Iraq would have been a tricky balancing act. But as a result of mismanagement and general confusion on the part of the Bush administration about the nature of American power in Iraq, the job has become harder than it needed to be…[more]

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