PR still a weapon wielded by US in Kosovo aftermath

WASHINGTON, DC: The tanks have moved out of Kosovo, but the PR forces are still a long way from finishing their task.

WASHINGTON, DC: The tanks have moved out of Kosovo, but the PR forces are still a long way from finishing their task.

WASHINGTON, DC: The tanks have moved out of Kosovo, but the PR

forces are still a long way from finishing their task.



The United States Information Agency (USIA), which played an integral

role in communications efforts during the war, has been charged with

coordinating an Internet communications project through which returning

citizens can find information about their families. Through the program,

computer equipment - originally donated by private companies to refugee

camps - will be installed in seven centers to allow Kosovars to tap into

databases and find family members.



’The USIA has pioneered ways of using the Internet for international

communications,’ said the group’s Leslie High. ’This is a chance for us

to do this on a different level.’



The crisis in Kosovo continues to present challenges to the USIA.

According to High, the agency has felt a need to ’keep a close eye on

what the foreign media is saying’ and provide information to overseas

press officers.



During the fighting, daily audioconferences were held involving about 20

US embassies. These conferences featured press officers detailing what

was appearing in the local media, reporting on new polling data and

reviewing statements made by government leaders. The goal was to allow

US press officers to better ’explain U.S. policies to those in other

countries.’



’Face-to-face meetings were impossible and e-mail was insufficient,’

said High. ’Virtually every call facilitated information coordination

that could not have been accomplished otherwise.’



While these daily conferences have ceased, government officials,

reporters and scholars overseas are kept informed about other US

policies and issues through weekly audioconferences and videoconferences

with experts in the United States.



According to High, U.S. embassies make requests for an expert in a

particular field to discuss issues with targeted audiences in that

country. The goal, he said, is to get experts in the US to interact with

key foreign audiences.



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