US sends Iraq a ‘media commissioner’

WASHINGTON/BAGHDAD: US authorities have appointed a ‘media commissioner’ to govern the rapidly expanding media outlets in Iraq.

Simon Haselock has been appointed to attempt to enforce ‘guidelines’ on the media, in addition to helping set up training programmes for journalists.

The number of newspapers published in Iraq, as well as the number of TV stations being beamed in from other countries, has increased dramatically since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

However, concerned that much coverage has been dedicated to fanning resistance to Western troops, US authorities have sought to exercise control over journalists by issuing mandatory guidelines.

Iraq’s US civil administrator Paul Bremer has issued guidelines to media outlets forbidding them from inciting ‘ethnic or religious hatred’.

Haselock, who has previously worked as a United Nations spokesman in former war-zones such as Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, will offer training to local journalists and attempt to increase the reach of the US-backed Iraqi Media Network, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the US State Department has launched a hunt for an agency that can develop and implement an online campaign to encourage young, educated Arabs to visit US government websites. The department’s stated aim is to raise awareness of the rationale behind US foreign policy in the Middle East.

The two-month campaign may employ such unconventional diplomatic tools as pop-up windows and banner ads.

Last week Salim Lone, the UN’s former director of communications in Iraq, said the organisation was rethinking its entire programme in the country – including PR – following the truck bomb that killed at least 23 people at its local headquarters on 19 August (PRWeek, 5 September).

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