New Iraqi TV Protests U.S. Censorship

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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