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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005





Part II

Transition to a New Campaign


Chapter 7
Fighting the Battle of Ideas in Iraq

 

Developing a Free Press in Iraq

As part of the Coalition’s efforts to create a new Iraq, Army units worked with the Iraqis to assist in the development of a media culture and media organization suited to a free society. Under Saddam’s dictatorship, the Iraqi media was little more than a propaganda arm of the regime; every aspect of their work was tightly controlled. In mid-April 2003, Iraqi media outlets and figures suddenly found themselves without experience or even a conception of the role of the media in a democracy. In many cases, the Iraqi media network had become rundown or had been knocked out by Coalition operations at the beginning of OIF. The 101st Airborne Division (101st ABN) used Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds to help television and radio stations get back on the air in the north of the country. Those funds bought equipment for Iraqi reporters and even underwrote the production of simple public service announcements for local governing councils broadcasted on television networks.153 PA units offered more specialized assistance to fledgling Iraqi media organizations. The operations of the 139th MPAD, composed of 20 military specialists in broadcast and print journalism from the Illinois and Wisconsin Army National Guard, provide one excellent example of this initiative. The 139th MPAD supported the 101st ABN, Task Force (TF) Olympia, and other units in the Mosul area from January 2004 to January 2005. The unit set up a process to send press releases in Arabic to local media outlets and brought local media representatives into training sessions to do Arabic briefings and broadcast live interviews with local civic and religious leaders. The 139th and TF Olympia conducted press conferences with local Iraqis, including local leaders, in briefings by military leaders. Over time, the PA Soldiers in the 139th developed personal relationships with Iraqi reporters who facilitated the growth of a new type of media in Iraq. Captain Angela Bowman and other officers in the 139th trained the local Iraqi media personnel in Western-style journalism, emphasizing the special responsibility journalists have in a democracy to present accurate and objective accounts of the news. The most imposing challenge was showing Iraqis how to gather, write, edit, and package stories for television without governmental direction. When Iraqi journalists requested more information on ethics and standards of the profession, PA officers offered classes on those subjects. They also trained local leaders on the role of media spokespersons in government.154

This process of establishing the new Iraqi media culminated with the creation of the CPIC within MNF-I in the summer of 2004. The CPIC represented all branches of service and operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in Baghdad. Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Boylan, who served as the director of CPIC, found that as the Iraqi Government and military stood up, a significant part of his mission involved teaching the Iraqis about the role of PA, public communication, and strategic communication. PA Soldiers in the CPIC created a program of instruction similar to that of the US Defense Information School so Iraqis could learn skills such as press desk operations, media monitoring, and media escort. Senior leaders were taught the basics of media engagement and press conferences. Iraqi PA officers worked with Boylan’s Soldiers in the CPIC to receive hands-on training in preparation for establishing the Iraqi Government Communications Division. In fact, the CPIC PA personnel included the IIG in its PA planning for the January 2005 elections. In the 30 days prior to the 31 January elections, the CPIC facilitated 36 separate IIG media events with Iraqi and international media as part of the overall MNF-I strategic communications plan.155


Chapter 7. Fighting the Battle of Ideas in Iraq





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