Academic journal article Military Review

Reaching Out: Partnering with Iraqi Media

Academic journal article Military Review

Reaching Out: Partnering with Iraqi Media

Article excerpt

SINCE THE BEGINNING of combat operations in Iraq in March 2003, the media have disseminated countless war-related stories and articles of interest, reaching not only American citizens and military families in the United States but also an international community interested in gauging the coalition's progress. The public's desire for information about the war wavers, but bad news consistently generates attention. The American media embedded with military units strives to capture and portray events as they occur. Although sensational events arouse public interest, those less dramatic, but potentially more important, go mostly unnoticed. Such neglected stories do not involve spectacular insurgent attacks, human suffering, or infrastructure degradation. According to CNN international correspondent Nic Robertson, "There is an awful lot of what might be construed as bad news here [in Iraq], but it is the dominant information. It is the prevailing information."' However, in many cases, "less-than-worthy-of-attention" events have a profound effect on the perceptions, attitudes, behavior, and allegiances of the most influential audience involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom (0117), the Iraqi people. Iraqi citizens are closest to the truth at the proverbial "tip-of-the-spear" of unfolding events. In their eyes, the government of Iraq (GOI) and the coalition are either making improvements and progress or destroying what little the Iraqis had.

Influencing Iraqis is central to managing a favorable outcome in this war. Putting an Iraqi face on news to help counter anti-GOI or anti-coalition propaganda will ultimately be necessary to attain the best outcomes. Having Iraqis produce and report news stories is the best vehicle for eliminating culture and language barriers in communication. News important to improving a public spirit thereby gains a measure of instant credibility that coalition information operations and reporting cannot impart. Using native news reporters will increase chances of acceptance by the Iraqi population by relaying credible stories of progress that can resonate favorably through communities. Media communication to Iraqis by Iraqis thus has the potential to sway even the most stubborn of anti-GOI and anti-coalition critics, strengthening resolve and commitment to resist terrorism.

Unfortunately, other than using limited psychological operations (PSYOP) resources and capabilities, the GOI and the coalition have allotted scant attention, effort, and capital to communicating with Iraqis. To make progress in the information war, the coalition needs to involve the Iraqi media. In this regard, two central issues must be addressed: providing security to the Iraqi media and, more important, facilitating their access to the most relevant stories of interest. If the coalition continues to overlook these two fundamental issues, the insurgents will remain the most influential group affecting Iraqi beliefs and behavior.

Breaking the Paradigm

Although pundits could debate whether Iraqi reporters have the same status as international media, the country's credentialed correspondents clearly lack the clout and respect their international or American counterparts possess. All too often, Iraqi media are an afterthought.

Importantly, most coalition commanders have no appreciation for the potential benefits of including Iraqi reporters in daily battlefield circulations. They also probably do not feel comfortable doing so. The language barrier and the resource-intensive need for media escorts and translators make it easier to exclude Iraqis when planning media operations. Thus, Iraqi media have had little opportunity to provide relevant news about coalition and GOI actions. Altering this situation requires careful thought and changes to the status quo.

How is the coalition communicating with local Iraqis? For the most part, the coalition uses PSYOP assets to deliver its messages, however, information distribution is surgical, limited in duration and scope. …

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