New Iraqi TV Protests U.S. Censorship

| May 2003

A new era of Iraqi TV began Tuesday with station officials complaining of American censorship.

The Iraqi Media Network, hailed by U.S. officials as the end of 25 years of state propaganda, opened its programming Tuesday with a picture of the Iraqi flag and a pan-Arab nationalist anthem, reports Reuters. But a planned half-hour live news program was scuttled after the U.S.-led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) insisted that material be reviewed before being aired by the wife of Kurdish leader Jalal Talibani, a prominent figure in post-war Iraq.

?As journalists, we will not submit to censorship,? said Dan North, a Canadian adviser working with the network. ?This whole idea was about starting the genesis of an open media, so we will not accept an outside source scrutinizing what we produce.?

Robert Teasdale, an American adviser to the network, denied that the U.S. was dictating coverage. ?This is not American propaganda,? he said. ?This is the first time in 25 years Iraqis are getting TV that is not propaganda.?

Station workers had earlier threatened a walkout after U.S. officials refused to allow the network to air verses from the Koran. The OHRA later backed down on that point, but did force the station to pull one story?based on an unsubstantiated allegation of U.S. soldiers stealing gasoline?from the newscast. News programming has been postponed for a week because of the controversy.

The network on Tuesday aired old musical shows and interviews; a planned address by Jay Garner was cut in a last-minute programming change. But if the lack of news programming made the new era of Iraqi media a little hollow, Abbas Mohammed, for one, could care less. The Baghdad cakemaker, who tuned in to the broadcast with his family Tuesday night, said the lineup was just fine with him. ?All my neighbors say this TV is controlled by the Americans to get out their point of view,? he said. ?But I don?t care there was no news. In Iraq the news is always bad.?

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