Dust Settles in Iraq

By the time America was embroiled in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, censorship had spread beyond information released to the American public to information released to all those under American control — in this case, the Iraqis. In 2003, the Iraqi Media Network (IMN) was put in place by the American government to disseminate news after the deposition of Saddam Hussein. It was “both a PBS-style broadcaster and a means for the occupying authorities to communicate with Iraqis.”5 The American occupying government was supposed to be a model for a free, democratic press, but the dangers posed by the pro-Baathist movement still present in Iraq could not be ignored, and so the IMN was also required to broadcast pro-American and anti-Baathist information. When occupying authority chief L. Paul Bremer III was appointed, he immediately shut down Iraqi news organizations as well. Major General David Petraeus acknowledged that “what we are looking at is censorship,” but justified it by adding that “you can censor something that is intended to inflame passions.”5 Later on in 2003, the Pentagon hired the Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a defense contractor, to run multimedia affairs in Iraq. According to an article in the American Prospect journal, “[a]lthough this new outfit was intended to become a kind of public broadcasting system, [t]he SAIC’s orientation was more toward information control.” The American government came under fire for this at the hands of the Index on Censorship, an international media-watchdog group, for using news organizations as a vehicle of foreign policy. The government responded by “developing an independent media commission, run by journalists rather than the U.S. Army,” but still did not allow a completely free media in Iraq. In terms of information broadcast to Americans, the information permitted by journalists was less strict than in Grenada and the Persian Gulf, but still closely monitored and edited. One debate over journalistic freedom manifested itself on the home front in 2009, when President Obama lifted the ban on photography of military coffins.7 Supporters of the president’s actions agreed with Margot Norris, and applauded him for allowing the true cost of war to be shown. Some argued that the ban was lifted simply to create unnecessary controversy, and others believed it to be an invasion of the privacy of the soldiers’ families. Perhaps Obama lifted the ban to garner support for the military as Roosevelt had done 1943, but considering that Obama’s campaign platform reflected a desire to end the war quickly (which he did in 2011), this seems unlikely.

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