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Originally published Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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U.S. military secretly pays Iraqi newspapers for running stories trumpeting U.S. mission

As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by U.S. troops in an effort to...

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by U.S. troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents, and tout U.S.-led rebuilding efforts.

While the articles are basically truthful, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles — with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism" — since the effort began this year.

The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington, D.C., firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories.

The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are vowing to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech to a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption. It comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled "The Role of Press in a Democratic Society."

Underscoring the importance U.S. officials place on development of a Western-style media, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday cited the proliferation of news organizations in Iraq as one of the country's great successes since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The hundreds of newspapers, television stations and other "free media" offer a "relief valve" for the Iraqi public to debate the issues of their burgeoning democracy, Rumsfeld said.

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