Leaders of the International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest journalists’ group, today accused the United States of “operating a cynical campaign of double standards” in Iraq after newspaper reports that a sophisticated propaganda offensive is being waged whereby the US army is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish articles written by American troops posing as journalists.
According to the Los Angeles Times, articles written by US military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers in order to boost the image of the American operation in the country.
The stories are presented as unbiased news reports from independent journalists and present a one-sided view of events, omitting all information that reflects badly on the US or Iraqi authorities.
The IFJ Executive Committee, meeting this weekend in Sydney, Australia, condemned the practice and warned that such practices “make a mockery” of commitments to free expression by US leaders and they damage efforts to encourage independence and professionalism within Iraqi journalism.
“The US is operating a cynical campaign of double standards. It is manipulating media with stories by stooge journalists which tell lies and distort the reality facing millions of people in Iraq,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This activity weakens its public stance of defending democracy and undermines all the efforts of journalists to create a culture based upon respect for press freedom and human rights.”
The IFJ says that the US should immediately cancel all projects and agreements by which sub-contracting private companies are used to place the stories in Iraqi media. The staff of one sub-contractor – the Lincoln Group – according to the Los Angeles Times sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets to disguise any association with the US army.
The IFJ and other groups have been organising projects and activities, sometimes with the support of US sources of funding, in the promotion of editorial independence and freedom of expression in Iraq.
”All the work that is being carried out in Iraq and in the region in support of press freedom is compromised by this media manipulation,” said White. “It should come to halt immediately.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries