Uncle Sam, Iraqi Censor

Article excerpt

Having fought to liberate Iraq, the U.S. occupation authorities now seem intent on fighting Iraqi liberty

"Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thoughts contend," Mao Tse-tung declared, during a critical moment for the Chinese Communist regime in 1956. When journalists, intellectuals and even Party members responded with withering criticism of his leadership, Mao stopped the campaign as abruptly as he had set it off. After a June 1957 crackdown, free expression went into a deep freeze from which it is only now slowly emerging.

There's a little bit of Chairman Mao, it seems, in L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S.-installed chief of the Coalition's occupation of Iraq. The Hundred- Flowers Bremer says he "welcomes" the explosion of homegrown newspapers in Baghdad. But the Hundred-Hammers Bremer is authorizing the creation of a strict "code of conduct" for the Iraqi media -- and talking of "registering" newspapers and broadcast news operations.

In a twisty bit of Orwellian double-speak quoted the other day by Washington Post staff writer Sharon Waxman, Bremer said the U.S. occupation authority wasn't trying to censor or control the Iraqi press, just "establish ... some orderly process by which one registers a newspaper or magazine, as you'd have in any other country."

Any other country? Does Bremer really not know that in free nations -- such as the one that provides his paycheck -- newspapers and magazines do not ask government permission to publish, that TV and radio journalists do not need a bureaucrat's rubber stamp to report? …