Journalists, free

Published: Tuesday 15 June 2004

Al-sabah Baghdad

Many of the editors and reporters of Baghdad-based al-Sabah newspaper, a us-funded publication that occupation officials have called a model for journalism in West Asia, walked out in May 2004, reports the Washington Post Foreign Service. American overseers had threatened their future editorial independence, the journalists allege.

"We thought that the Americans were here to create a free media. Instead, we were being suffocated," says Ismael Zayer, who was the editor-in-chief. Zayer says he could not accept the plan by the us administrator of Iraq, L Paul Bremer, to keep the Arabic paper within the Iraqi Media Network, a body that occupation officials created to develop a public broadcasting service.

Zayer claims that the newspaper would be subject to interference by a future Iraqi government. The exodus from al-Sabah is the latest setback in us efforts to create a new media era in Iraq. The undertaking has faced allegations of wasted funding and sloppy programming. Many Iraqis view the media outlets created by the program as mouthpieces of the occupation.

An official of the Iraqi Media Network dismissed Zayer's allegation and said the network would provide only a guiding hand to the newspaper, tv and radio operations.

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