A key U.S. Senator says the military bought advertisements in Iraqi newspapers to promote the U.S.-led coalition's work in Iraq, but that some had been published without the disclaimer that they had been funded by the military. The omission gave rise to reports the military was placing favorable news articles in the Iraqi press in the guise of independent journalism.
In the wake of news reports that the military paid Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories about the war and the reconstruction effort, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia, sought more information from defense department officials. "I remain gravely concerned about the situation," he said.
After a visit to the Pentagon Friday, Senator Warner said officials confirmed to him that the military has placed articles in Iraqi newspapers as "paid advertisements," but that some have been published without disclaimers that they were funded by the military. "It has been discovered in some areas that there has been an omission of that reference -- that it (the article) has been paid for --and they are looking into that," he said.
In Baghdad, the U.S.-led coalition confirmed in a statement that it places articles in Iraqi newspapers, saying in its words that it does so "as a function of buying advertising and opinion/editorial space, as is customary in Iraq." The statement added that "the information battlespace in Iraq is contested at all times and is filled with misinformation and propaganda by an enemy intent on discrediting the Iraqi government and the coalition, and who are taking every opportunity to instill fear and intimidate the Iraqi people."
Senator Warner acknowledged the military's concerns about the impact that the insurgents' disinformation campaign may be having: "The disinformation that is going out in that country is really affecting the effectiveness in what we are achieving, and what our troops are fighting and dying for, and being wounded. As a consequence, we have no recourse but to try to get the truth and the facts out," he said.
Senator Warner said Pentagon officials told him the defense contractor known as the Lincoln Group is paying Iraqi news organizations to run the military-produced articles as paid advertisements.
A spokeswoman from the Lincoln Group would not comment. But a statement from the organization says the Lincoln Group has consistently worked with the Iraqi media to promote truthful reporting across Iraq. The statement says "we counter the lies, intimidation, and pure evil of terror with factual stories that highlight the heroism and sacrifice of the Iraqi people and their struggle for freedom and security."