June 19, 2003
Christian Science Monitor

In Volatile Iraq, US Curbs Press

by Ilene R. Prusher

. . . Iraqi journalists are not taking kindly to the restrictions. Among the scores of new publications that have flooded Iraq's newsstands since the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, the broadsheet As-Saah is one of the most widely read. In a front-page editorial Wednesday, the paper's senior editor let readers know what he thought of the country's liberators: "Bremer is a Baathist," the headline reads.

In an interview, editor Ni'ma Abdulrazzaq says the press edict decreed by Bremer lays out restrictions similar to those under Mr. Hussein. Not long ago, an uppity writer could easily be accused of being an agent for America or Israel. "Now they put plastic bags on our heads, throw us to the ground, and accuse us of being agents of Saddam Hussein," the editorial reads. "In other words, if you're not with America, you're with Saddam."

"Mr. Bremer, you remind us of Saddam," the column continues. "We've waited a long time to be free. Now you want us to be slaves."


[First they tried to silence governments critical of their foreign policies by buying them off with aid packages and trade deals. . . . Next, they made sure the press didn't ask hard question during the war by trading journalistic access for editorial control.

Now they are attempting to turn relief workers in Iraq and Afghanistan into publicists for Mr. Bush's Brand U.S.A., to embed them in the Pentagon, like Fox News reporters.--Naomi Klein, "Bush to NGOs: Watch Your Mouths," Globe and Mail, June 21, 2003]

[A day after Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary, claimed that the Arabic Al-Jazeera television channel was "inciting violence" and "endangering the lives of American troops" in Iraq, the station's Baghdad bureau chief has written a scathing reply, complaining that in the past month his offices and staff in Iraq "have been subject to strafing by gunfire, death threats, confiscation of news material, and multiple detentions and arrests, all carried out by US soldiers".

The unprecedented dispute between an Anglo-American occupation authority supposedly dedicated to "democracy" in Iraq and an Arab station once praised by Washington for its services to free speech in the region comes as the US administration appears ready to close down Al-Jazeera's operations in Iraq - along with Al-Arabiya channel - for alleged "incitement to violence".--Robert Fisk, "Al-Jazeera Accuses US of Harassment in Row Over 'Bias' Baghdad," Independent, July 30, 2003]

"Aljazeera crew arrested in Iraq," Aljazeera, September 10, 2003

[Freedom of speech campaigners have condemned US-appointed authorities in Iraq for banning television stations Aljazeera and al- Arabiya.--Roshan Muhammed Salih, "US-backed council bars Arab media," Aljazeera, September 23, 2003]

[The US bombed al-Jazeera because it was angered by reports that did not confirm its one-sided picture of the war. . . .

The US sent its first warning to al-Jazeera in November 2001, bombing its Kabul office, Dima Tareq Tahboub,--" The war on al-Jazeera," Guardian, October 4, 2003]

Robert Fisk, "Under US Control, Press Freedom Falls Short in Iraq," Capital Times (WI), November 20, 2003

Donald Macintyre, "Iraqi PM bans al-Jazeera for 'inciting hatred'," Independent, August 8, 2004

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