WASHINGTON: US efforts to re-establish Iraq's media hit a milestone last week as defense contractor Scientific Applications International (SAI) rolled out the country's first post-Saddam newspaper and original TV news program.
The 30-minute nightly news show, staffed by Iraqi journalists formerly in exile, reportedly addresses concerns about electricity, water, and lawlessness in the region. The twice-weekly newspaper, al Sabah ("the Dawn"), began printing on Thursday with an initial run
of 50,000 copies.
The short-term goal is to quell unrest among Iraqis by establishing America's presence and control over basic issues.
The San Diego-based information-technology firm holds a Pentagon-issued contract to set up a media operation in post-war Iraq in coordination with Psychological Operations and the White House communications staff. SAI referred all questions about the contract
to the Pentagon, which would not comment beyond confirming the price of the contract, which is $45 million.
What is clear is that the operation got off to a slow start, leaving a media vacuum throughout the country following the end of Ba'ath Party rule. That vacuum prompted the White House to ask the Broadcasting Board of Governors to collect clips of US news shows that were broadcast in the interim. Those broadcasts, including segments from the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, halted last week.
American officials in Iraq were eager to get their own media up and running due to a number of other outlets that rushed in to fill the vacuum. Some estimate that as many as a dozen newspapers are already being published in Baghdad, most of which represent ideologies hostile to the US' presence.