Nick Turse / Al Jazeera & The National Security Archive – 2011-04-25 02:45:50
Stop the Presses, Literally in Iraq
The US military praises Iraqi security forces as they crack down on press freedom
Nick Turse / Al Jazeera
(April 23, 2011) — The first months of this year have been grim for free speech in Iraq. As revolts swept across the Middle East and North Africa, they spread to Iraqi cities and towns, but took on a very different cast.
In February, in places like Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit, protesters took to the streets, intent on reform — focused on ending corruption and the chronic shortages of food, water, electricity and jobs — but not toppling the government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. The response by government security forces, who have arrested, beaten, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded, however, was similar to that of other autocratic rulers around the region.
Attacks by Iraqi forces on freedom of the press, in the form of harassment, detention, and assaults on individual journalists, raids of radio stations, the offices of newspapers and press freedom groups have also shown the dark side of Maliki’s regime.
Many journalists have been prevented from covering protests or have curtailed their reporting in response to brutality, raising the spectre of a return to the days of Saddam Hussein’s regime when press freedom was a fiction.
Maliki’s US allies, however, have turned a blind eye to the violence and repression, with the top spokesman for the US military in Iraq praising the same Iraqi units which eyewitnesses have identified as key players in the crackdown while ignoring the outrages attributed to them.
In addition to providing training to these units, the US military is currently focused on upgrading the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, including the creation a national intelligence and operations centre and more sophisticated use and understanding of social media, which some fear may further increase state repression.
Maliki Cracks Down
After ousting long-time dictator Saddam Hussein from power in April 2003, the US government pumped an estimated half a billion dollars or more, much of it by way of the US defence department, into the development of a national press in Iraq. The Pentagon’s plan, as documents obtained by the National Security Archive show, was to dominate the media landscape in cooperation with a friendly Iraqi national government.
In spite of this, an initial bloom of independent media outlets created a vibrant environment for journalism in post-Saddam Iraq. Sectarian divisions, a lethal insurgency, and governmental interference followed, however, and took an increasing toll on the free press.
“Even before February’s surge of violence, the deteriorating situation had caught the attention of the world’s media monitors,” writes Sherry Ricchiardi, an expert on the press in the Middle East, in a newly issued report to the Centre for International Media Assistance on “Iraq’s News Media After Saddam”.
Samer Muscati, a researcher for Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division who just completed a fact-finding mission in Iraq, echoed this, noting that — while more journalists were killed in attacks during the height of Iraq’s insurgency — the strengthening of the Iraqi government has led to different hazards for reporters. “They’re at more risk, now, of being harassed or interrogated or targeted by security forces or their proxies,” he told me by telephone.
Reports suggest that Maliki is now intent on dismantling much of what remains of the free press in Iraq. At 2 a.m. on February 23, 20 armed men, clad in distinctive uniforms topped by red berets or helmets bearing a skull and cross-bones, burst into the Baghdad offices of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi press freedom group. For more than an hour, they tore apart the facility and confiscated computers, external hard drives, cameras, cell phones and documents, according to a detailed report by Human Rights Watch.
Forty-eight hours later, on what was billed as a “Day of Rage”, Iraqi security forces detained 300 leading journalists, lawyers, artists and intellectuals who took part in or covered the protests over domestic issues and government accountability.
Four journalists who were picked up long after leaving the protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square told the Washington Post that troops operating out of the headquarters of an army intelligence unit had beaten them and threatened them with execution.
Reporters also had their cameras and memory cards confiscated, Muscati told me. Other assaults on press freedom, including attacks on radio and television stations and the roughing up of reporters, took place all across the country.
In early March, following another round of demonstrations, members of Iraq’s Federal Police Force and the Baghdad Operation Command, a special force controlled by Maliki, arrived at offices of the Iraqi Nation party and the Iraqi Communist party — two political parties critical of the prime minister. They were told they had 24 hours to vacate the premises. The publicly owned buildings were being turned over to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.
Jassin Helfi, a leader of the Communist party, said that their offices and the headquarters of the party’s newspaper were targeted following a summit between Maliki’s party and the Communist party’s leadership.
“The objective of the meeting was to try and convince us not to participate in the demonstrations, and when we did, our punishment was the order to close our offices,” Helfi told the New York Times.
In the days after the crackdown, I talked with Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, the chief spokesman for the United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I), and asked him about Iraq’s army intelligence units and Federal Police Force. He had a markedly different view of the US-trained security forces that have reportedly been deployed to squelch dissent and talked to me about his own personal relationship with one of the units.
Involved in training Iraqi forces almost every year since 2003 (the only exception being 2007), Buchanan told me by telephone: “I personally was involved in training the Federal Police a number of years ago and it’s pretty inspirational seeing them on several subsequent tours and how much progress they have made.”
Buchanan also made special reference to the instruction provided by NATO advisers to both street-level federal policemen and leaders in higher headquarters, singling out Italy’s Carabinieri for their contribution. “They have helped to build a Federal Police Force that is the pride of the country,” he said.
Seen by the US military as a key to freeing up the Iraqi Army from policing duties, the Federal Police have received instruction, according to Buchanan, “on everything from marksmanship, patrolling procedures, arrest procedures, etc. all the way up to counter-terrorism operations.”
As for the Iraqi Army’s intelligence units, Buchanan told me that, at this very moment, the US is heavily involved in upgrading their capabilities. “This is actually one of our major focus areas for the remainder of 2011,” he said.
The Iraqi government already has an impressive intelligence gathering capability when it comes to human intelligence (called HUMINT by the US military), Buchanan explained to me, but lacks a comprehensive, national computer-based system for collecting, analysing and disseminating that information. “Somebody who may be running sources as part of a HUMINT network in Mosul,” he said offering an example, might keep that information in notebook and might never send it on to authorities in Baghdad.
As a result, the US military is helping the Iraqi security forces develop a national intelligence and operations centre to share information across agencies and throughout the country, creating a massive government database.
Samer Muscati says there are definite accountability issues, even if US forces are scheduled to leave Iraq this year. “If the US is training these troops it has a responsibility to make sure that they’re trained in ways that respect people’s human rights, respect due process, and don’t lead to abusive behaviours or coercive methods,” he told me.
In an email interview, Sherry Ricchiardi suggested that the US military could better train Iraqi security forces on how to deal with the media, specifically breaking news situations where military and police have often focused on thwarting reporters’ efforts to cover stories.
Like other countries across the region, social media has played a major role in activist organising in Iraq. The Washington Post noted that the same progressive young Iraqis who organised the February 25 “Day of Rage” that brought tens of thousands, from all across the country, into the streets saw their Facebook group leap from 700 followers to 4,000 in a country with extremely limited internet access (another group they started had, by mid-March, 10,000 members).
Since then, Facebook has played a widening role in the protest movement.
In Egypt, the Mubarak regime shut down the Internet in an attempt to squelch dissent. In Libya, Tunisia and Bahrain, the governments have all taken steps to censor or stifle internet-aided activism. In Iraq, the US military is currently instructing the Iraqi government on more effective and sophisticated use of the Internet.
“We, right now, are dealing with the ministry of defence to help them understand how to employ Facebook,” said Buchanan. The goal, he said, was for the Iraqi military to more effectively engage with Iraqi citizens, but as with the training offered to Iraqi police, fears exist that it could be employed for more sinister purposes.
Human Rights Watch’s Muscati explained that protest organisers in Baghdad said that they’ve seen on-line countermeasures employed against their organising efforts on Facebook.
“People are being targeted via social media,” Muscati said. “Abuses by the security forces and others are happening now. Even though Iraq is not as sophisticated as other governments in terms of its use of social media, it seems to be effectively countering the protests to some extent.”
Facts on the Ground
“Conditions on the ground continue to worsen for Iraq’s journalists,” Sherry Ricchiardi told me. This is backed up by figures released, last month, by the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, which counted more than 160 attacks on reporters, including 33 arrests or detentions and 40 instances of obstruction or the confiscation or damaging of equipment, over just two weeks.
Additionally, according to Muscati, state security forces have killed more than 17 protesters and injured more than 250 persons during the recent unrest.
General Buchanan talked about democracy, dissent, and protests in Iraq only obliquely, preferring to focus on what the Iraqi government was learning from demonstrations elsewhere in the region. He said that unrest throughout the Middle East and North Africa had “reinforced the Iraqis’ understanding of what democracy is all about.”
While noting that Iraq’s media was important to keeping the Maliki regime accountable to the people, Buchanan failed to address the severe crackdown on press freedom or the violence against journalists and indirectly mentioned only that the Iraqi “government is wrestling with how do they do that [allow for press freedom] and ensure protection of the people at the same time.”
Sherry Ricchiardi sees the recent repression in starker terms. “It is part of the orchestrated crackdown on media,” she wrote to me. “The [Iraqi] government and security forces appear to be getting bolder in attacks on media.”
When asked if General Lloyd Austin, the commander of US forces in Iraq, had addressed the issue of media repression with his Iraqi counterparts, Capt. Dan Churchill, a spokesman for US forces in Iraq, explained to me that the general applauded the Iraqi government’s “decision to investigate alleged incidents of excessive force by the Iraqi security forces.”
When asked for an official statement on the crackdown, Churchill responded by email: “We condemn any and all attacks on media organisations and journalists in Iraq. The protection of journalistic freedom is an essential aspect of all democratic societies.”
The US military continues, however, to advise and train Iraqi security forces and bolster their potential to suppress free speech.
It already seems to be taking toll. “I think journalists are more reluctant to cover protests after what happened on February 25th because they’re concerned for their security and they got the message that they shouldn’t be doing this,” Muscati said.
If more journalists are silenced, more media outlets shut down and self-censorship takes hold, the results could be catastrophic. “The question now is whether Iraq will move forward on human rights and due process,” Muscati told me, “or whether will revert to being a police state again.”
Nick Turse is an historian, essayist, investigative journalist, the associate editor of TomDispatch.com, and currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books). He is also the author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives.
IRAQ: THE MEDIA WAR PLAN
White Paper and PowerPoint Briefing on “a critical interim rapid response component of the USG’s strategic information campaign for Iraq — in the event hostilities are required to liberate Iraq.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 8, 2007) — In January 2003 Defense Department planners recommended the creation of a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” to serve as a bridge between Iraq’s formerly state-controlled news outlets and an “Iraqi Free Media” network, according to a White Paper and PowerPoint slides that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and are posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive.
The Pentagon team would portray a “new Iraq” offering hope of a prosperous and democratic future, which would serve as a model for the Middle East. American, British, and Iraqi media experts would be hand-picked to provide “approved USG information” for the Iraqi public, while an ensuing “strategic information campaign” would be part of a “likely 1-2 years . . . transition” to a representative government. A new weekly Iraqi newspaper would feature “Hollywood” along with the news.
Defense Department planners envisioned a post-invasion Iraq where the US, in cooperation with a friendly Baghdad government, could monopolize information dissemination. They did not account for independent media outlets, the Internet, and all the other alternative sources of information that are available in the modern world.
The US media campaign has not been able to control the message — but its execution was privatized, and contracting has made it a profitable enterprise for those able to capitalize on the Pentagon’s largesse.
Today’s posting also includes an “Iraq Media Timeline” that summarizes the US media campaign and the difficult conditions faced by reporters in Iraq.
Pentagon “Rapid Reaction Media Team” for Iraq
Joyce Battle / Electronic Briefing Book
A White Paper and PowerPoint briefing obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and published today by the National Security Archive describe Pentagon planning for a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” that was to be a critical part of an information campaign “during [the] pre-hostilities phase of the Iraq mission.”
As a “bridge” after the overthrow of Iraq’s government and before the establishment of an “‘Iraqi Free Media’ network,” the rapid reaction team would create narratives leading Iraqis to feel, Pentagon planners enthused, like North Koreans who turned off state TV at night and in the morning turned on “the rich fare of South Korean TV . . . as their very own.” Foreshadowing the unfolding of the US government’s Iraq media policy, preliminary work would not come cheap — Defense Department planners recommended paying two US consultants $140,000 each for a campaign of six months duration.
The White Paper was prepared in January 2003 by two Defense Department offices – Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, and Near East and South Asian Affairs (Special Plans). The first is in charge of psychological warfare; the second was set up to covertly plan for the invasion of Iraq. As reported by Knight Ridder Newspapers, by mid-2002 it was clear to veteran Pentagon workers that President Bush was “methodically preparing an invasion to oust” Saddam Hussein.
A planning unit — later referred to as the “Office of Special Plans” — was to coordinate “the non-military and political aspects of any campaign, as opposed to drawing up actual invasion plans.” More details of the unit’s activities have subsequently become known, particularly through a July 9, 2004 report by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the efforts of Senator Carl Levin [D-Mich.] and his staff.
On October 21, 2004 the senator released a report focusing on the activities of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, which oversaw these secretive planning activities, and Levin was instrumental in obtaining the February 2007 declassification of what he called a “devastating” report by the Defense Department’s inspector general, who said the office’s role in developing and disseminating alternative intelligence analyses on Iraq — directed by Under Secretary Douglas Feith, and authorized by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz — was “inappropriate.”
According to the media White Paper, “civil-military transition of the new Iraq to a broad representative government” would take “1-2 years,” and the US government would establish — in 12 months — an information system that would serve “as a model for free media in the Arab world.” To ensure that the message would be controlled, Iraq was to be provided with a “Temporary Media Commissioner” to regulate against “hate media”.
He or she would operate in a receptive environment: the team would “identify the media infrastructure that we need left intact, and work with CENTCOM targeteers to find alternative ways of disabling key sites.” (Evidently the Baghdad headquarters of Arab satellite network al-Jazeera was not part of “the media infrastructure that we need left intact.”)
Iraqi, American, and “one or two” British media experts would provide information to Iraqis about US intentions and operations. Their mission would include preventing Iraq’s “trifurcation” while giving Iraqis hope for the future. “Hand-Picked” Iraqis would provide “the face” for the USG campaign. The team was to “[t]ranslate USG policy and thematic guidance into information campaign (news and entertainment).”
Plans for “Entertainment and News Magazine programming” ranked “Hollywood” above the news. Though US policy was officially opposed to Iraq’s geographical disintegration, its internal divisions would be emphasized: a new weekly publication would have separate sections for Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurdish articles.
As Pentagon planners saw it, the themes of the “strategic information campaign” were to be crimes of the old regime, and a bright new day. They included “Mine awareness,” “Re-starting the Oil,” “Justice and rule of law topics,” “Humanitarian assistance . . . care and management of population and internal displaced persons,” “Political prisoners and atrocity interviews,” “WMD disarmament,” and “Saddam’s palaces and opulence.”
Unfortunately for the architects of the war, however, the world has found uncontrolled media to view Iraq’s actual post-invasion reality — Abu Ghraib, IED’s, chlorine bombs, sabotage, disappearances, torture, botched executions, a dysfunctional legal system, a collapsed civil infrastructure, massive casualties, and an exodus numbering 2 million refugees, for whom American humanitarian aid has been effectively nonexistent — all overseen from the USG’s privileged enclave in the Green Zone. The 21st century universe of alternative media, freelancers, cell phones, video uploads, bloggers, and satellite news outlets was not, evidently, anticipated by the Pentagon, and is well beyond its control.
The US government’s Iraq media policy did enrich certain defense contractors, including the Rendon Group, which also provided propaganda support for the US leading up to the first Iraq war, Scientific Applications International Corporation — also known for creating a job, at the Defense Department’s behest, for Shaha Ali Riza, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz’s friend — and the Lincoln Group, which experienced a meteoric rise in fortune courtesy of the Pentagon’s largesse. Consistent failure to achieve stated goals has been no obstacle. [also here, here and here]
As for Iraq, it has been provided with media policies that resemble, according to the media watchdog International Press Institute, “those of autocratic regimes in the region, and not those of an aspiring democracy.”
In the state of anarchy imposed on Iraq by the US invasion, more than 200 journalists have died, including, by April 2007, at least 27 working for the US-created Iraqi Media Network. Three of them were killed by US forces. For reporters still striving, against great odds, to describe the conditions confronted by its people, Iraq is now, according to Reporters Without Borders, the “most dangerous country” in the world.
Document 1: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; and Office of the Assistant Secretary, Near East and South Asian Affairs (Special Plans) White Paper Entitled, “‘Rapid Reaction Media Team’ Concept;” January 16, 2003; Includes Briefing Slides.
Source: Declassified through the Freedom of Information Act
Recommends creation of a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” using “hand-picked” American, British, and Iraqi media experts to prepare for the establishment of an “Iraqi Free Media” following the invasion of Iraq. Discusses the team’s mission, personnel requirements, required tasks, and plans for “on-the-shelf” programming, and outlines topics and themes to be disseminated to the Iraqi public.
Document 2: US Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General Audit Entitled, “Acquisition: Contracts Awarded for the Coalition Provisional Authority by the Defense Contracting Command-Washington,” March 18, 2004.
Reports on actions taken by the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance/Coalition Provisional Authority – the entities created to govern Iraq following the U.S. invasion of March 2003 – and the Defense Contracting Command-Washington, which was in charge of administrating private sector activity in support of the invasion and occupation – when awarding contracts.
The inspector general undertook this inquiry after the Defense Contract Audit Agency “found irregularities in both the award and administration of the contracts” and recommended an in-depth review. During the time span under consideration in the audit, the Defense Contracting Command awarded 24 contracts, valued at $122.5 million, of which 13, valued at $111 million, were sole-source (non-competitive.)
The audit, which categorizes “media support” as “humanitarian assistance,” discusses a contract for the Iraqi Free Media Program that was granted on a no-bid basis to the Science Applications International Corporation. The Iraqi program is discussed in detail on pages 10, 16-17, 21-22, 26-29, and 33-36.
Document 3: US Department of Defense, Inspector General Report Entitled, “Review of the Pre-Iraqi War Activities of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy,” February 9, 2007.
The review underlying this report was performed at the request of Sen. Pat Roberts [R-Kans.], Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. Carl Levin [D-MIch.], ranking minority member of the committee, because of substantive questions raised about some of the conclusions of the July 7, 2004 report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence entitled, “Report on the US Intelligence Community’s Pre-War Intelligence Assessments on Iraq,” particularly in regard to the possible politicization of intelligence.
The inspector general’s review found that “The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers. While such actions were not illegal or unauthorized, the actions were, in our opinion, inappropriate … ” Therefore, “the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy did not provide ‘the most accurate analysis of intelligence’ to senior decision-makers.” (p. ii)
Iraq Media Timeline
Before (and during) the invasion of Iraq — The US government broadcasts psychological warfare programming into Iraq from an EC-130E Commander Solo aircraft (a modified C130 cargo plane). (Asia Times, 8/16/03)
January 16, 2003 – Defense Department offices for special operations and low-intensity conflict and for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs (special plans), issue a White Paper/briefing calling for a “Rapid Reaction Media Team” to set up an “Iraqi Free Media” after the overthrow of the government in Baghdad.
February 2003 – C. Ryan Henry, corporate vice president for strategic assessment and development for the San Diego-based defense contractor Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), leaves to become deputy to Douglas Feith, head of the Defense Department’s policy office. (OUSD(P) Web site, Ryan Henry biography)
March 5, 2003 – The Pentagon gives a no-bid $33 million contract to SAIC for the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council (IRDC), a group of exiles put together by Paul Wolfowitz. (Acquisition, 3/18/04; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/4/04)
March 11, 2003 – The Defense Department gives SAIC a $15 million sole-source contract for the “Iraqi Free Media” project. Though the company has worked extensively with US Special Forces, it has no media experience. The contract is under Douglas Feith’s purview.
(SAIC’s vice chairman, Admiral William Owens (Ret.), was a member of the Defense Policy Board, advising Donald Rumsfeld. The company’s board members include Gen. Wayne Downing (Ret.), who also worked on domestic and international business development for the company, and was a member of the board of The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Soon after SAIC hired him, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, “Downing became a vocal advocate for overthrowing Saddam Hussein, becoming a part-time lobbyist and military planner for Iraqi dissident Adnan Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.”)
(“In 1997, Downing drafted a detailed plan for invading Iraq, spearheaded by Iraqi insurgents with the help of 5,000 or 6,000 special operations forces . . . . Gen. Anthony Zinni [U.S. military commander for the Middle East] mocked it as ‘the Bay of Goats’,” evoking the US Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.)
(Until mid-2002 Downing worked for the George W. Bush administration as an NSC counterterrorism expert.) (Acquisition, 3/18/04; Asia Times, 8/16/03; Washington Post, 10/16/03; Village Voice, 11/12/03; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/4/04)
Around March 11, 2003 – Robert Reilly, former head of the Voice of America, is hired to be project director for the Iraqi Media Network (IMN). Reilly worked for the Reagan administration as a liaison to Catholics, and as a publicist for the Nicaraguan contras. He was a member of the Center for Security Policy, whose credo was “peace through American strength.” Other members included Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Elliott Abrams, Midge Dector, and Frank Gaffney. One of Reilly’s publications posited an inherent incompatibility between Islamic theology and Western values.
Mike Furlong, who did military media work after the Kosovo war, is hired as Reilly’s deputy and the Iraqi Media Network’s program manager. (Reporters Without Borders Web site, 7/22/03; Center for Security Policy Web site)
March 20, 2003 – The US invades Iraq.
March 21, 2003 – An email from a Defense Department contracting specialist indicates that someone from the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), the entity initially created by the Pentagon to rule Iraq, wants SAIC to hire four named individuals, including Shaha Ali Riza, as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for advice regarding voter education, business development, politics, women, and government reform. (Acquisition, 3/18/04; Contract No. DASW01-03-F-0537)
March 27, 2003 – SAIC is awarded an $834,744 contract for an “Advisor for Democracy and Governance Group,” including Shaha Ali Riza. (In April 2007 it is revealed that Paul Wolfowitz, in response to nepotism rules evoked when he became director of the World Bank, arranged for Riza, his significant other, to be posted to the State Department and to be granted several large raises, increasing her salary to more than $193,000.) (Acquisition, 3/18/04; Government Accountability Project Web site, 4/5/07)
March 29, 2003 – British tanks fire on four al-Jazeera journalists filming food distribution in Basra. (Reporters Without Borders Web site,4/8/03)
March 30, 2003 – U.S. forces hit Iraq’s Ministry of Information with a cruise missile, damaging the building and destroying satellite dishes. (Central Command News Release, 3/30/2003, Independent on Sunday (London), 3/30/03)
April 6, 2003 – American troops kill Qomran Abdul Razzaq, a BBC translator, when they bomb a Kurdish convoy in northern Iraq. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
April 7, 2003 – US forces fire on an al-Jazeera vehicle, prominently marked “press”, on a road near Baghdad. (Reporters Without Borders Web site, 4/8/03)
April 8, 2003 – A US tank fires on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel and kills Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Spanish Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso. (Associated Press, 4/19/04)
April 8, 2003 – A US missile hits al-Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau and kills reporter Tariq Ayoub. The Pentagon had been extensively briefed on the bureau’s location, which was festooned with barriers marked “TV”. (MEED Weekly Special Report, 2/20/04)
April 10, 2003 – Ahmed al-Rikaby, hired by SAIC to be the Iraqi Media Network’s first television director, broadcasts the announcement “Welcome to the new Iraq” from a tent erected by U.S. soldiers. Five days later, “The Voice of New Iraq” officially begins broadcasting on AM radio. (Associated Press, 8/6/03; Christian Science Monitor, 4/21/03)
May 13, 2003 – The Iraqi Media Network begins television broadcasting from Baghdad, featuring cartoons, Egyptian soap operas, folk singers, news, sports, and interviews about Iraq’s lack of security and services. (Associated Press, 5/25/03)
May 15, 2003 – PR Week reports SAIC’s launching of the newspaper as-Sabah, with an initial run of 50,000. Its “short-term goal is to quell unrest among Iraqis by establishing America’s presence and control over basic issues. The San Diego-based information-technology firm holds a Pentagon-issued contract to set up a media operation in post-war Iraq in coordination with Psychological Operations and the White House communications staff.” (PR Week (US), 5/19/03)
June 2003 – Administrator Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), successor to ORHA, issues Order No. 6, declaring that the Iraqi Media Network is an interim entity replacing Iraq’s information ministry, eliminated by occupation authorities in May. IMN is given the ministry’s equipment and facilities. It retains a few hundred reporters and other staff. More than 5,000 employees are fired.
Along with the newspaper as-Sabah, the Iraqi Media Network operates a television station and two radio stations. The network’s chief editor, former Iraqi-Canadian exile George Mansour, says its news bulletins are independent. In reality they feature coalition activities and statements by Bremer. Mansour insists his journalists are “genuine” Iraqis, but some mock its reporters’ American and British accents. (Reporters Without Borders Web site, 4/26/07)
June 2003 – Independent press watchdog groups issue a report calling for the Iraqi Media Network to be dismantled because it is unclear whether it is to be an independent media outlet or a propaganda tool. Controversies include the hiring of Hero Talabani, wife of Kurdish leader/USG ally Jalal Talabani, to oversee editing, and its daily airing of a British program called “Toward Freedom.”
The latter issue has led five Iraqi Media Network officials to write to managers installed by SAIC: “We respectfully request to know whose political agenda is involved here. Certainly, it is not a professionally sound programming decision to use a mediocre propaganda program from abroad to supercede our own news program. Following an exhausting hour of ‘Toward Freedom,’ it is only the most dedicated news junkies who could tolerate it without seeking another channel.” (Baghdad Bulletin, July 21, 2003)
June 2003 – Iraqi Media Network staff are not paid and go on strike. They strike again upon learning their pay scale will be that of the former Ministry of Information — $120 a month. A senior advisor to the IMN, former NBC correspondent Don North, says, “For some reason CPA have said we must adhere to the old pay scheme” despite intense competition for competent staff. (U.S. contractors hired for management positions are paid more than $200 per hour.) (Baghdad Bulletin, July 21, 2003)
June 2003 – Robert Reilly leaves the Iraqi Media Network, suddenly. (Washington Post, 10/16/03)
June 2003 – Iraqi Media Network program manager Mike Furlong is fired. (Baghdad Bulletin, July 21, 2003)
August 5, 2003 – Iraqi Media Network’s TV director, Ahmed al-Rikaby, quits, saying the network is inadequately funded and can’t compete with al-Jazeera and other alternative news sources. Al-Rikaby’s one-year contract to be television director and head of radio programs was scheduled to end in April 2004. He says low pay has led staff to leave the network. (Associated Press, 8/6/03)
August 10, 2003 – The Daily Telegraph, a conservative British paper, reports that former colleagues of Ahmed al-Rikaby say that Iraqi TV’s problems arose from incompetence and nepotism, and that his claims of inadequate funding “should not be taken seriously.” Al-Rikaby declares that he’s been targeted by “a smear campaign,” and says, “There was always an excuse as to why I couldn’t get what I needed.” (The Daily Telegraph, 8/10/03)
August 17, 2003 – U.S. soldiers kill Mazen Dana, a Palestinian journalist working for Reuters, while he is filming outside Abu Ghraib prison. (IPS, 9/25/03)
September 2003 – Dorrance Smith becomes media consultant to the CPA and head of the Iraqi Media Network. A childhood friend of George Bush and former producer for This Week with David Brinkley, he left ABC in 1989 to become media advisor to George H.W. Bush. He worked at This Week again from 1995 to 1999, when he was reportedly forced out, shortly before ABC decided not to renew the contract of commentator William Kristol. Kristol, a Smith colleague from the first Bush White House, was a principal cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. (Media Research Center Web site, 12/30/99)
September 23, 2003 – Iraq’s governing council bars leading Arab satellite TV stations al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya from its ministries and events. The Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders condemn the decision. IPS reports that the Iraqi Media Network has taken over a number of Iraqi radio stations and effectively shut down independent media outlets. (IPS, 9/25/03)
September 24, 2003 – US soldiers open fire on AP photographer Karim Kadhim and his driver Qassim as-Saidi, and rake their car, prominently labeled “Press”, with machine gunfire. The reporters escape death by leaping from the car. (IPS, 9/25/03)
September 30, 2003 – According to the Defense Department’s inspector general, SAIC’s initial $15 million contract for the Iraqi Free Media Program is now valued at $82.3 million: “approximately 71 percent of the costs were materials.” (Department of Defense; Office of the Inspector General: Acquisition, March 18, 2004, p. 10)
October 2003 – The Pentagon begins soliciting bids for a new $200 million contract to run the Iraqi Media Network. (Village Voice, 11/12/03)
October 16, 2003 – The Washington Post reports that Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) wants to transfer $100 million meant to expand Iraq’s media network from the Pentagon to the State Department; however, the DOD’s Office for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (in charge of psychological operations) retains control. (Washington Post, 10/16/03; Village Voice, 11/12/03)
October 22, 2003 – Japan’s foreign ministry announces that the 1980s TV drama “Oshin”, called a “tearjerker” by some, will be broadcast by the Iraqi Media Network. A Japanese official hopes that “the patience, enthusiasm and forward-looking attitude of Oshin, the story’s heroine, will send out a positive message to the Iraqi people.” (Japan Economic Newswire, 10/22/03)
Early November 2003 – George Mansour is removed as the Iraqi Media Network’s news director. (Village Voice, 11/12/03)
November 3, 2003 – US troops seize al-Jazeera cameraman Salah Hassan near Baquba, as he is interviewing witnesses to a roadside bomb attack, and take him to a US military base, then to Abu Ghraib. He is eventually released without charge. (Observer, 11/27/05; Reporters Without Borders Web site)
November 12, 2003 -The Village Voice reports that a recent poll found that 67 percent of Iraqis with satellite receivers prefer TV news from al-Arabiya or al-Jazeera – not the Iraqi Media Network. (Village Voice, 11/12/03)
November 13, 2003 – The New York Observer reports that the CPA, dissatisfied with US news coverage of Iraq, is about to create its own 24-hour broadcast operation, bypassing American networks. “It’s C-Span Baghdad”, according to CPA media advisor Dorrance Smith.
The article says that the U.S. military in Iraq and the CPA press office, described by one news producer “as staffed by political true believers, ‘neocons and evangelists’,” were “‘apoplectic’ at the press for under-reporting the ‘good news’ in Iraq.” (New York Observer, 11/13/03)
January 7, 2004 – The satellite broadcaster Arabsat, based in U.S.-friendly Saudi Arabia, begins broadcasting Iraqi Media Network’s al-Iraqiya TV programs. According to Radio Netherlands, “After the American attack on Iraq the management of both Arabsat and Nilesat announced that they w[ould] not let the Iraqi Media Network to be broadcast on both satellites but sounds like they gave it a second thought . . .” (BBC Monitoring International Reports, 1/7/04)
January 9, 2004 – After deciding not to renew SAIC’s contract to run the Iraqi Media Network, the Defense Department replaces it with the Harris Corp., a military contractor based in Melbourne, Florida. The company announces, “the Defense Contracting Command-Washington (DCC-W), on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) currently governing Iraq,” has given it a renewable $96 million to develop Iraq’s “antiquated” media network. The total value of the contract could be nearly $165 million. Its “local teammates” will be the Christian-owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. and telecommunications company al-Fawares of Kuwait. (Harris Corp. Web site, 4/27/2007)
January 20, 2004 – In his State of the Union speech, President Bush says, “To cut through the barriers of hateful propaganda, the Voice of America and other broadcast services are expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian — and soon, a new television service will begin providing reliable news and information across the region.” (White House Web site, 1/20/04)
February 14, 2004 – With $62 million, the U.S. government launches al-Hurra, a network intended to compete with al-Jazeera, to broadcast news and entertainment to Arab countries from a base in Springfield, Virginia. According to the National Post (Canada), Washington has allocated an additional $40 million for a specifically Iraqi al-Hurra operation [which begins broadcasting in April 2004.] Its programs are to be modeled after Radio Sawa, a pop music outlet that the USG considers a relative success.
According to the Post, “The Pentagon-run Iraq Media Network has flopped. Iraqis have not warmed to its broadcasts of official statements by Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator, and members of the Iraqi Governing Council.” (National Post (Canada), 12/19/03)
February 14, 2004 – Former CPA contractor and Iraqi Media Network senior advisor Don North says professional journalism training was obviously needed in Iraq — “A brutal form of training was delivered by the US Army and CPA officials when they found stories offensive. They visited the offices of offending newspapers and often left them padlocked and in ruins. No mediation, no appeal.”
He says the Iraqi Media Network’s problems had many causes, including the fact that, “A revolving door of officials with no credible television or journalism experience dictated plans and policy to IMN.”
Also, “A surprising lack of operating capital, in spite of IMN’s being the most expensive U.S. government media project in history at an estimated $4 million a month, forced the IMN to run on a shoestring and look like it. There were no funds for basic equipment such as camera batteries, tripods or editing equipment. A $500 request for a satellite dish to downlink the Reuters news feed was refused. A $200 request for printing my training manual in Arabic for reporters was turned down.”
Also, “Lack of planning for program production or acquisition resulted in illegal airing of copyrighted European and Hollywood film tapes confiscated from the mansion of Saddam’s son Uday.”
Also, “IMN staff were ordered to cover endless daily CPA news conferences, interviews and photo opportunities, leaving little time and few facilities to cover genuine news stories initiated by IMN reporters on the street.”
Also, “The right of ‘collective bargaining,’ another American concept, was trashed by CPA management when IMN staff twice went on strike for higher wages. IMN staff were told in effect, ‘our way or the highway’.” (Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing, 2/14/05; Don North statement)
February 15, 2004 – Harris Corp. takes over the operation of the Iraqi Media Network from SAIC. Eleven months after SAIC was given a contract that was ultimately valued at $82.3 million, an official from one of Harris’s two regional subcontracters, Lebanese broadcasting Corporation International, says, “We are practically starting from scratch.” (MEED Weekly Special Report, 2/20/04)
March 3, 2004 – U.S. troops kill al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Mahmood Awad Hamadi in Falluja. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
March 18, 2004 – Near a checkpoint, U.S. troops kill correspondent Ali al-Khatib and cameraman Ali Abdel-Aziz of the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news station. (Associated Press, 4/19/04)
March 18, 2004 – Nadia Nasrat, announcer, Majeed Rasheed, technician, and Mohammed Ahmad Sarhan, security agent of the Iraqi Media Network, are killed by armed men in Diyala (Baquba). (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
March 18, 2004 – The Defense Department’s inspector general issues a report on CPA contracts. It says that SAIC’s original program manager for the Iraqi Media Network bought a H2 Hummer and a Ford pickup truck and chartered a DC-10 cargo jet to fly them to Iraq for his personal use “outside the scope of the contract.”
When the Pentagon’s contracting office refused to authorize the purchases, SAIC “went around the authority of this acquisition specialist to a different office within the under secretary of defense for policy to gain approval and succeeded.” The inspector general could not specifically determine the cost but one category of expenses called “Office & Vehicle” totaled $381,000.
Also, when a subject specialist did not win a USAID contract, the director of the ORHA arranged for him to be covered by SAIC’s Iraqi Media Network contract. He “was first placed in charge of determining how to dispose of garbage in Iraq, and was then made Senior Ministry Advisor for the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Neither of those roles was within the scope of the Iraqi Free media contract.” ORHA’s director wrote, “we anticipate . . . [the subject matter expert] would be used on a variety of special projects essentially outside of the Indigenous media contract’s scope of work.”
The inspector general concluded, “We could not determine how the contracting officer obtained a fair and reasonable price for the Iraqi Free Media contract.” (Department of Defense; Office of the Inspector General: Acquisition, March 18, 2004, pp. 18, 21)
March 26, 2004 – U.S. troops kill ABC cameraman Burhan Mohammed Mazhoor in Falluja. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
April 6, 2004 – SAIC says “its revenue soared to a record $6.7 billion” during the last fiscal year, with “a surge in defense spending . . . . government business accounted for 80 percent of its revenue, with Pentagon contracts amounting to $3.7 billion.” (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/7/04)
April 15, 2004 – Donald Rumsfeld declares, “what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.” (Department of Defense Transcripts, 4/15/04)
April 16, 2004 – According to a leaked memo, George Bush discloses in a meeting with Tony Blair that he plans to bomb al-Jazeera’s Qatar headquarters, but Blair dissuades him. (The Mirror (U.K.), 11/22/05)
April 19, 2004 – The St. Petersburg Times reports that development work on the Iraqi Media Network’s al-Iraqiya and other media projects “has come to a near halt in recent days as Harris and other companies have been in lockdown because of the violence. Even with armed guards and armored vehicles, [project director David] Sedgley has been unable to move more than a mile or so beyond the Green Zone . . .”
The Times notes that Harris won the Pentagon contract to run the Iraqi Media Network through its “one-man Iraqi Initiatives project.” Because “it knew nothing about programming,” it subcontracted “a non-controversial Arab network,” and Newsweek’s Kuwaiti printer. (St. Petersburg Times, 4/19/04)
April 19, 2004 – On a road leading to Samarra, U.S. troops shoot and kill correspondent As’ad Kadhim and driver Hussein Saleh, and wound cameraman Bassem Kamel, employees of the Pentagon-funded al-Iraqiya TV station. (Associated Press, 4/19/04)
May 15, 2004 – Shortly before the end of its rule in Iraq, the CPA announces creation of a new framework for Iraq’s broadcast media, turning it into a sort of public broadcasting system. (Agence France Presse, 5/15/04)
Mid 2004 – A company called Iraqex, created to look for business opportunities in occupied Iraq, forms a partnership with the Rendon Group. (New York Times, 12/11/05) [Rendon has a long history of propaganda activities on behalf of conservative and Republican Party causes.]
August 7, 2004 – Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi suspends al-Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau. (New York Times, 8/8/04)
September 4, 2004 – The Iraqi interim government breaks into al-Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau, searches it, and closes it down indefinitely. (Agence France Presse, 9/6/04; Associated Press, 9/7/04)
Around September 2004 – The U.S. military awards the year-old Iraqex company a $6 million contract. The company is to undertake “an aggressive advertising and PR campaign.” It has “no background in public relations or the media.” (Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, 10/6/04; Haymarket Publishing Services, 11/19/04; New York Times, 12/11/05)
October 7, 2004 – Ahmad Jasim, al-Iraqiya reporter, is killed by unknown armed men. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
November 2004 – The CPA changes the Iraqi Media Network’s name to Iraqia Network and hires J. Walter Thompson for public relations work “to convince Iraqis that IMN or Iraqia was credible.” [The network continues to be referred to popularly as the Iraqi Media Network.] (Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing, 2/14/05; Don North statement)
November 1, 2004 – Reuters cameraman Dhia Najim is shot in the head and killed by a U.S. sniper while covering fighting between armed men and American troops. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
January 20, 2005 – Harris Corp. announces it has been awarded a second, three-month, $22 million contract by the Iraqi Media Network, covering training, programming support, systems, and deployment. (Harris Corp. Web site, 1/20/05; 4/27/2007)
February 20, 2005 – When asked by the St. Petersburg Times how Harris Corp. can “counter the perception that the Iraqi Media Network’s TV station, al-Iraqiya, is a mouthpiece for the U.S. government – especially during the time the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority was running the country,” project manager David Sedgley says, “First, Harris Corp. has never received a dime from the U.S. government – the Iraqi Media Network, including al-Iraqiya, is totally funded by the Iraqi government with Iraqi funds.”
He also says one of Harris’s objectives is to develop “fair and balanced” broadcasts, and that it has “reduced the amount of pro-American subjects” being aired.
Regarding security, he says, “If we knew it was going to deteriorate to today’s situation, I would have recommended to my management not to bid this program.” (St. Petersburg Times, 2/20/05)
February 28, 2005 – Raida al-Wazzan, al-Iraqiya TV announcer, is killed by armed men in Mosul. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
March 2005 – Iraqex changes its name to the Lincoln Group. (Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, 3/23/05)
May 31, 2005 – Jerges Mohammed Sultan, al-Iraqiya TV reporter, is killed near his house by armed men. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
June 2005 – The Defense Department’s Special Operations Command awards three five-year contracts, totaling $300 million, for articles, broadcasts, advertisements, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other messages meant to win international support for the U.S. government, including one to the Lincoln Group, which claims “select relationships in Congress, the Administration and the U.S. Department of State.” According to the New York Times, Lincoln becomes “the main civilian contractor for carrying out an aggressive propaganda campaign in Anbar Province, known as the Western Mission project. Over the next several months,” records show, “the military transfer[s] tens of millions of dollars to Lincoln for the project.”
Another contract goes to SAIC, despite “widespread criticism for its handling of Iraq’s first TV and radio network.” Its earlier contract was not renewed in December 2003 “amid complaints that the network was mainly a propaganda tool for the occupying forces.” The third is given to SYColeman Inc., headed by Lt. Gen. Jared Bates (Ret.), formerly director of operations for ORHA.
Mike Furlong, fired by the Iraqi Media Network in June 2003, is deputy director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element and one of the officers in charge of the project. (USA Today, 12/13/05, 12/14/05, 12/23/05; San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/18/05; New York Times, 2/15/06)
June 1, 2005 – U.S. troops kill ad-Da’wa newspaper reporter Haydar al-Jourani in Najaf. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
June 22, 2005 – Yassir as-Salihi, Knight-Ridder reporter, is killed in his car by U.S. troops. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
June 28, 2005 – Ahmad Wa’il al-Bakri, ash-Sharqiya TV director, is killed by U.S. troops in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
July 1, 2005 – Khalid Sabih al-Attar, al-Iraqiya producer/presenter is kidnapped and killed by armed men in Mosul. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
July 3, 2005 – Editor-in-chief of Baghdad TV Maha Ibrahim is shot and killed by U.S. troops in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
August 27, 2005 – Rafid Mahmood Said al-Anbagy, Diyala radio presenter for the Iraqi Media Network, is killed by armed men in al-Gatoon area. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
August 29, 2005 – Hayder Kadhim and Walid Khaled Ibrahim, Reuters reporters, are killed by U.S. troops in Baghdad while covering fighting. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
September 17, 2005 – Sabah Mohssin of al-Iraqiya is killed. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
September 22, 2005 – Ahlam Yousif, TV engineer, and Bassem al-Fadli, manager, al-Iraqiya, are killed by armed men in Mosul. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
October 2005 – The Lincoln Group presents a plan called “Divide and Prosper” to the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command in Florida. It recommends making Sunni religious leaders one of the “target audiences” for U.S. propaganda. (New York Times, 1/2/06)
November 2, 2005 – Defense Secretary Rumsfeld endorses Dorrance Smith to be his chief spokesman, despite outrage resulting from an April 25 Wall Street Journal opinion piece in which Smith wrote that U.S. television networks were “a tool of terrorist propaganda” because they re-aired footage from al-Jazeera. (Washington Post, 11/2/05)
November 28, 2005 – Akeel Abdul Ridha and Muqdad Muhsin of al-Iraqiya are killed by armed men. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
November 30, 2005 – The Los Angeles Times reports, “the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.” The operation is handled by the Lincoln Group, and “is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military.” (Los Angeles Times, 11/30/05)
December 2005 – A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll indicates that 72 percent of Americans think it is wrong for the Pentagon to secretly pay the Iraqi media to publish pro-U.S. stories. (USA Today, 12/23/05)
Early January 2006 – Journalist Kamal Karim is sentenced to 30 years in prison for defaming Kurdish regional leader Masoud Barzani. His treatment is met by international outrage and his sentence is later reduced; he is imprisoned for six months. (Christian Science Monitor, 1/10/06)
January 1, 2006 – Mahmood Za’al, Baghdad TV reporter, is killed by U.S. troops in Khaldiya. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
January 2, 2005 – The New York Times reports that the Lincoln Group has been paying Sunni Iraqi religious scholars for propaganda assistance. (New York Times, 1/2/06)
January 4, 2006 – Through a recess appointment by President Bush, Dorrance Smith becomes assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. [On April 7, he is confirmed for the position by the Senate.] (Washington Post, 1/5/06; 4/8/06)
January 10, 2006 – The Christian Science Monitor reports that nearly 50 percent of Iraqis watch al-Iraqiya. However, according to its critics, “Iraq’s version of America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has simply become a propaganda tool for the country’s leading Shiite politicians. Al Iraqiya was meant to stand as a model for a burgeoning independent press, but seems to have instead become one more political spoil for its competing factions . . . . The Iraqi Media Network is another factor that is helping to turn Iraqi society into a sectarian society.” (Christian Science Monitor, 1/10/06)
Mid-January 2006 – The Defense Department inspector general begins an audit of the Pentagon’s use of the Lincoln Group for “psychological operations.” (New York Times, 2/15/06)
February 15, 2006 – The New York Times reports that two years ago the two founders of the Lincoln Group, recent Oxford University graduate Christian Bailey (nÃ© Christian Jozefowicz) and Paige Craig (formerly a U.S. Marines intelligence officer), “were living in a half-renovated Washington group house, with a string of failed startup companies behind them,” until winning contracts from the Pentagon. “Now their company . . . works out of elegant offices along Pennsylvania Avenue and sponsors polo matches in Virginia horse country. Mr. Bailey recently bought a million-dollar Georgetown row house. Mr. Craig drives a Jaguar and shows up for interviews accompanied by his ‘director of security’, a beefy bodyguard.” (New York Times, 2/15/06)
February 20, 2006 – Raeda Wazzan, al-Iraqiya news anchor, is kidnapped. Five days later she is found dead on a roadside in Mosul, where she had lived and worked. She had been shot repeatedly in the head. Her 10-year-old son was also kidnapped but he was later released. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
March 5, 2006 – The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo) reports that the Japanese Foreign Ministry is providing the animated series “Captain Tsubasa”, about a soccer-playing boy, to the Iraqi Media Network for free. Twenty-six Japan Ground Self-Defense Force water tankers in southern Iraq have been decorated with giant decals of Captain Tsubasa. A Foreign Ministry official predicts Iraqi children “will be filled with dreams and hopes by watching the show, and boost pro-Japanese sentiment even more.” (Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo), 3/5/06)
March 11, 2006 – Amjad Hamid Mohsin, director, and Anwar Turky, driver, al-Iraqiya, are killed by armed men in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
March 19, 2006 – Ali Hamid al-Mayahi, ad-Da’wa newspaper reporter, and Kamil Manahi Anbar, an-Nahar reporter and Institute of War and Peace Journalism correspondent, are killed by joint U.S.-Iraqi troops while the journalists are covering a military raid on a mosque in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
May 5, 2006 – Saad Shammari, TV host on al-Iraqiya, is found dead of apparent strangulation on a roadside in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
May 24, 2006 – The New York Times reports that an internal Defense Department investigation by Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk has concluded that payment of Iraqi newspapers to publish pro-American stories could undermine U.S. credibility and should be stopped. (New York Times, 5/24/06)
May 31, 2006 – Jafaar Ali, al-Iraqiya sports presenter, is gunned down in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
July 19, 2006 – The Defense Department drops the Lincoln Group and SAIC from the TV and radio components of a $300 million contract awarded in June 2005. SYColeman retains its part of the contract. A Pentagon psychological operations official says, “We learned that working with three companies increases expenditures in both time and money and does not provide best value to the government.”
(SYColeman is a subsidiary of intelligence contractor L-3 Communications. Since May, L-3’s president for government services has been Lt. Gen. Paul Cerjan (Ret.). After retirement, Cerjan had worked for Lockheed and Loral and was on the board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, along with Middle East policy hawks Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, and James Woolsey. He had been president of Pat Robertson’s Regent University for three years when he was called by ORHA head Jay Garner, and then “oversaw the demobilization the Iraqi army.” After that he was hired by Halliburton as “vice president of worldwide military affairs” for its subsidiary KBR, where he was in charge of military logistics for Iraq.) (Washington Post, 7/19/06; TMCnet News, 5/10/06,; CorpWatch Web site, 8/9/06; Private Warriors (Frontline) Web site, 6/21/05)
September 2006 – Willem Marx recounts his experiences paying Iraqi newspapers to publish pro-U.S. stories secretly written by American soldiers while he worked as a $1,000-a-month intern for the Lincoln Group. He mentions on one occasion needing “an unusually large advance payment” to buy upfront air time for the “Western Mission” propaganda operation, and driving through Baghdad with $3 million in cash in the trunk of a car, “separated into thirty plastic-wrapped $100,000 blocks.” The company, he reports, which paid Iraqi newspapers some $50-$1,500 to publish planted stories, expected to make $19 million for two months of work on the contract. (Harper’s, 9/06)
September 5, 2006 – SAIC reports revenue of $2 billion in the second quarter of FY 2006, a five percent increase over 2005. Government contracts accounted for about 92 percent of its 2005 revenue of $7.8 billion. Its revenue has increased by 78 percent since 2002. It has around 9,000 active contracts with the government. (San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/6/06)
Late September 2006 – The Lincoln Group receives “a two-year, $12.4 million contract to monitor English and Arabic news outlets” and to produce public relations material for the U.S. military in Iraq. Previously, the contract was handled by the Rendon Group. (New York Times, 10/20/06; Haymarket Publishing Services Ltd., 10/2/06)
October 4, 2006 – Jassem Hamad Ibrahim, al-Iraqiya driver, is killed by unidentified gunmen in Mosul as he is running errands for the station. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
October 6, 2006 – The Defense Department inspector general reports that the Pentagon did not break the law when it used the Lincoln Group “to place articles in the Iraqi media . . . .Psychological Operations are a central element of Information Operations . . . to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to U.S. objectives.”
However, the inspector general says that military officials violated contracting guidelines for competitive bidding and for overseeing costs in connection with a September 2004 Lincoln Group contract. But he recommends no punitive measures because the contract has expired. (Department of Defense Inspector General: Information Operations Activities in Southwest Asia, 10/6/06)
October 14, 2006 – Raed Qais ash-Shammari, an al-Iraqiya employee, is killed in a drive-by shooting in southern Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
December 29, 2006 – Akil Sarhan of the Iraq Media Network’s sports TV channel ar-Riyadia is killed when his car is attacked on the way to work by armed men. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
January 9, 2007 – Akil Adnan Majid, as-Sabah accountant, is kidnapped outside the newspaper’s office in Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
January 20, 2007 – Mohammed Nuri and Baha’ Hussein Khalaf, reporters for the Iraqi Media Network, are killed in the Nineva governorate. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
February 4, 2007 – Suhad al-Khalidi, Iraqi Media Network reporter, is killed by U.S. troops as their patrol passes her car in Hilla. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
February 7, 2007 – Three unknown security guards for al-Iraqiya are killed by foreign security guards accompanying a delegation in as-Salihiya in central Baghdad, near al-Iraqiya headquarters. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
March 20, 2007 – USA Today publishes an article entitled, “Democracy’s Support Sinks; Iraqis Disillusioned, Divided on Government.” It reports that a recent USA Today/ABC News/BBC/ARD (German TV) poll found that the percentage of Iraqis who view democracy as the best system for their country has declined from 57 percent to 43 percent in 16 months, that 51 percent, including 94 percent of Sunnis, believe that attacks on U.S. forces are acceptable political acts, and that “[b]y more than 3 to 1, Iraqis say the presence of U.S. forces is making the security situation worse.” (USA Today, 3/20/07)
March 31, 2007 – Mohammed Jassim Yousif, Iraqi Media Network reporter, is killed west of Baghdad. (Brussels Tribunal Web site)
April 25, 2007 – The International Press Institute, a media watchdog group, reports that “Iraq remains the most dangerous country for journalists.” It says, “The Iraqi government’s policies towards the press closely resemble those of autocratic regimes in the region, and not those of an aspiring democracy.” (Reuters Foundation Alertnet, 4/25/07)
(Most of the information in the Timeline on killed or kidnapped journalists is from the Brussels Tribunal Web site. The Tribunal’s list is based in large part on one published in az-Zawra, the Iraqi Journalist Union’s newspaper, on May 4, 2006. This timeline includes only casualties from the Iraq Media Network and its organs, or those killed or imprisoned by coalition forces. In total, the Brussels Tribune Web site lists 256 media professionals killed in Iraq as of April 2007.)