Academic journal article Global Media Journal

International Media Organizations' Role in Assisting the Media Sector in Iraq after 2003

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

International Media Organizations' Role in Assisting the Media Sector in Iraq after 2003

Article excerpt

Introduction

The goal of this study is to provide a brief survey of international media organizations that work in Iraq by highlighting their sources of funding, type of activities and assistance, and the security threats that they encounter. Before the beginning of the military operations against Iraq in 2003, some international media organizations worked on media plans to develop the media sector. The aims of this assistance are related to training Iraqi journalists, empowering news organizations, supporting news agencies, and providing guidance and specialized expertise in certain areas. It is not clear whether they acted alone or were funded by the US government. The "The White Paper project" documents released by the National Security Archive clearly emphasized involving international media organizations in reforming the Iraqi media sector. This included establishing an independent public broadcasting service like the BBC which was later called the Iraqi Media Network (IMN) (www.imn.iq) and the Communications and Media Commission (CMC) (www.cmc.iq/en), Iraq's regulatory telecommunication and media body (Al-Rawi, 2013a). The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) that was later named the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was responsible for developing the media sector and gave the Iraqi Free Media contract (DASW01-03-F-0533) to a US corporation known as Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in order to:

Provide media development, and production support services and training for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and the Inter-Agency task force. The media team shall quickly establish a free and independent indigenous media network consisting of radio, television, and print media components to enable the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs to communicate with the indigenous population in a post-conflict environment in the country of Iraq (The National Security Archive, 2004, p. 23).

SAIC received over $82.3 million as of September 30, 2003 to establish IMN, yet there were many documented irregularities noticed in the expenditure (The National Security Archive, 2004, p. 17). As mentioned above, the original goal was to create "free and independent" media outlets, yet IMN and CMC never became independent because they remained polarized and controlled first by the CPA and the consecutive prime ministers who ruled Iraq (Al-Rawi, 2013b). According to the recent declassified document released by the Rumsfeld Library, the US administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, listed on October 4, 2003 the CPA activities in terms of establishing IMN, saying: "I want to advise you on a number of steps we have and will be taking to make IMN's TV programming more appealing to viewers, more professional in its approach, and more directly supportive of CPA objectives" (Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003). It seems that the original plan of establishing independent public broadcaster was only communicated to the public as the real objective was to create a media tool to serve the US efforts in Iraq. In fact, the cable cited above revealed that the aim of changing the Iraqi media in 2003 was not only meant to address the information needs of the Iraqi population but the Arab public as a whole. Bremer discussed the need to develop public affairs programs such as TV shows on writing the Iraqi constitution and the electoral process, stressing: "We believe that exposing these advances to the larger Arab world will have a profound impact. Arabs watching other Arabs go to the polls will inevitably raise the question, 'Why not here?'" (Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003). In fact, even the name given to IMN's TV channel, Al-Iraqiya, was "deliberately" chosen to look like the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera channels for the sake of making Al-Iraqiya a "major regional TV broadcaster" (Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003). As will be explained below, the US government and its aid agencies like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) were instrumental in assisting the Iraqi media with the help of international media organizations. …

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