Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Cost Of A Free Press

Freedom and Democracy in the Middle East is what the Americans say they are are fighting for in Iraq. For a free press of course...which reminds me again of A. J. Leibling who said a free press belongs to those that own one...and in this case much of the press in Iraq, at least the press that you and I get to read is owned by the U.S. military.

Which is why they jail independent freelance journalists like this guy
US Holds AP Photographer in Iraq 5 Mos While paying off British interns to sell their story in the Iraqi press. This is thre real meaning of embedded journalism....journalists in bed with the Pentagon planting stories in the press. PR joins fight for hearts and minds

I Was A PR Intern in Iraq

By Willem Marx, Harper's. Posted September 18, 2006.

In this astonishing confessional by an Oxford graduate who worked in the green zone of Baghdad, we see the perversity of the American version of a 'free press' in Iraq.

With all I was doing on Western Mission, I had begun to pay far less attention to the military's daily storyboards. Although I was passing along more than ten articles to be published each week, thrilling the stats-obsessed military team, I had stopped reading all the items the military sent me, and I'm sure I forwarded on to Muhammad stories I would previously have held back. Every week I was required to confirm the details of the military's spreadsheet, which listed the stories written by the I.O. team, the stories published, and which newspapers had published them. But it wasn't until early August that I really looked closely at the figures for the previous three weeks. When I examined Muhammad's records, I saw that the amounts some newspapers had charged us for placing articles had shot up dramatically.

During July, pieces published in the newspaper Addustour had gone from $84, to $423, to $1,345, and finally to $2,156. For another newspaper, Al Adala, what we were charged had climbed from $82 at the start of July to $1,088 by month's end. I checked the word counts of the articles, since we paid more for additional column inches, but all the stories were roughly the same length. On closer inspection, I also noticed that articles had been published in newspapers I had not specified. One particular paper, Al Sabah Al Jadeed (The New Morning), had been paid around $12,000 over a ten-day period from late July to early August, although I had never told Muhammad to place stories there.



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