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Cablegate: Iraqi Media Developments in November:

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 004849

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.0. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC PGOV IZ
SUBJECT: IRAQI MEDIA DEVELOPMENTS IN NOVEMBER:
KURDISH INDEPENDENT SATELLITE RADIO STARTS UP, NEW
POLLING AND MEDIA MONITORING ACTIVITY


LONDON FOR ARABIC MEDIA UNIT

(A) FBIS/OSC GMP20051109542002; (B) FBIS/OSC
GMP20051117710038

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment. Iraq's media sector
remains extremely active, reflecting the unsettled
political situation as different parties and
candidates clamor to project their voices to a
skeptical but highly politicized public. November
saw a new effort at independent broadcasting for
Kurdish audiences and a new media monitoring service
to cover elections. Papers published more "polls"
to illustrate editorial points or to project
standings of electoral candidates, with some
consequently drawing fire from those who disagreed
with their "findings." The media itself made news,
with an introspective review of managerial
shortcomings in the independent Kurdish-language
Hawlati, and accusations of biased reporting or
unethical media practices coming in several other
outlets. End Summary and Comment.

New Radio Station, Media Monitoring Service
-------------------------------------------

2. (U) On November 9, Nawa Radio, an Iraqi radio
station broadcasting in Kurdish and Arabic, began
transmitting via the Hotbird satellite, according to
the station's website at www.nawartv.com. This is
the first satellite radio we are aware of in Iraq,
and it may reflect an effort to overcome the
difficulty of FM broadcasting in Kuridsh areas,
where mountains restrict the range of FM
transmitters significantly. The website boasts that
"Nawa is an independent Iraqi national radio network
that aims to produce objective, uncensored news and
to serve as a platform for political discussion."
FBIS reports (ref A) that Nawa Satellite Radio
broadcasts 24 hours a day, and that FM broadcasting
began in January 2005 from Baghdad, Mosul,
Sulimaniya, and Kirkuk. The producers indicated
that they are also planning further projects,
including newspapers, magazines, and satellite TV.

3. (U) The week of November 15, the Iraqi NGO
Mirat4 announced that it would begin media
monitoring in Iraq. The NGO indicated it would
initially focus on elections, and that it intended
to publish its first products at a press conference
December 1, with another projected after December 15
elections.

Polls Draw Fire
----------------

4. (SBU) Iraqi media outlets are increasingly
citing "polls" to report on trends or to boost their
own party's standings. Methods and reliability are
impossible to gauge, as evidenced by widely
divergent results, although independent outlets are
seen as more likely to present credible results than
party organs. Some polls have apparently touched a
nerve and provoked threats against editors.

5. (SBU) Polls on the Cairo Reconciliation
Conference have varied widely, as have polls on the
likely prospects for various electoral candidates.
A survey on the website of the largely independent
Al-Sabah, with its occasional secular Shia slant, on
November 24 reported that only 17% of Iraqis
responding felt that the "Cairo conference will
contribute to Iraq's security," while 75.98%
believed it will not improve the situation. 7% had
no opinion. On the other hand, on November 23,
opposition Al-Fourat newspaper published a poll
noting "Iraqis Optimistic Over Dialogue and
Conference Success." The paper reported that 93%
were optimistic, 5% skeptical due to hasty
preparation, while 2% declined to give their
opinion.

6. (SBU) On November 19 Reuters published a poll
allegedly conducted and published by Bayyna
newspaper (Hezbollah Iraq party organ, pro-
government) in six of Iraq's 18 provinces, including
Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. Of the 38,500 said to
have been polled, 51 percent reportedly said they
wanted Ja'afari to remain as PM. Mithal al-Alusi, a
secular Sunni who heads his own election list, drew
21 percent in that tally, with former PM Allawi in
third place.
7. (SBU) On November 15, a senior official at a
major newspaper called to inform us that, after his
paper published a front-page internet poll the
previous day showing the relative popularity of
potential PM candidates (Allawi, Chalabi, Ja'aferi,
and Mehdi, in descending order), he received a
"strong hint" to stop running the poll, and he asked
PAOff if the U.S. could provide some protection or
assistance, explaining that the current Iraqi
government apparently took umbrage at the low
showing reported for the PM (22%) relative to Allawi
(40%) or Chalabi (30%). Although the paper is part
of the Iraq Media Network set up by CPA, it has been
feeling heat from the government in recent months to
control its editorial line. On November 25, the
editor told PAOff that the Prime Minister had
actually pressed for his resignation, but he pushed
back and won. The editor suggested he was the first
editor in chief in the Arab world to have survived
such a tug-of-war with a sitting Prime Minister.

8. (SBU) Al-Bayyan on November 17 reported the
results of another survey that "Most Iraqis are
Dissatisfied with Sentences Against Terrorists."
Bayyan reported that a survey carried out by the
Iraqi Archive Institution among more than 700 Iraqis
of different backgrounds showed that 76.8% expressed
dismay at trial sentences handed out to terrorists,
19.5% were content, and 3.7% had no opinion.
(Comment: There is no information about judicial
sentences in the public domain, indeed, papers do
not report trials or convictions at all, and most
Iraqis rely on word of mouth rumors.)

Media as News - Kurdish Paper Airs Its Own Dirty
Laundry
--------------------------------------------- -------
----

9. (U) Increasingly, the media itself was the
focus of news. We discovered November 15 that the
editor of Hawlati (the only independent media voice
in the Kurdish areas of Iraq) Asos Hardi had
resigned in early November, along with ten
colleagues. Unusually, the paper publicized its
problems. By publishing Asos' letter of resignation
November 17, Hawlati paper shed light on problems
confronting most Iraqi media: "I wished to leave
the newspaper of my own free will. . . something
that defies a tradition where leaders are either
forced to resign or stay until death. . . . An
administrative crisis emerged because none of us had
any experience managing an independent newspaper.
At the time [of our founding five years ago] we only
had media outlets of political parties. We needed a
system which provided not just transparency, but a
proper mechanism to prevent the concentration of
power in the hand of one person. Unfortunately we
could not fulfill this ambition." In a meeting with
Kirkuk poloff, the new editor indicated that his
predecessor had been worn out fighting "defamation
of character" lawsuits submitted by the two Kurdish
political parties. He attributes this to the
paper's attempt to keep a neutral political
editorial line.

10. (U) The media began to finger its competition
for unethical practices to promote political
agendas. In late November, al-Bayyan (Da'wa party)
criticized al-Zawra, Al-Hurra, and Baghdad satellite
television channels for exaggerating detainee
torture "to discredit the Unified Iraqi Coalition."
On November 22, Sunni electoral candidate Mithal al-
Alusi gave a phone interview to (Da'wa party paper)
Al-Bayyinah, in which he described Allawi as "the
protector of the Ba'th" and challenged him to a
televised debate. Al-Zawra on November 22 published
a column by Abd-al-Amir al-Majar commenting on
recent reports that the US Embassy in London bribed
a number of Iraqi and Arab journalists to "promote
the US effort" in Iraq.

11. (SBU) As usual, websites took more liberties
than other outlets, which continue to face threats
and intimidation. Sawt-al-Iraq website, produced by
Fayli (Shia) Kurds, discussed abuse of the media by
political parties and candidates. On November 22,
they wrote: "When the previous electoral campaigns
commenced, the interim Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi,
abused his post by exploiting public funds for his
campaign. This included paying channels like LBC and
al-Arabiyah, that showed his campaign around the
clock, as well as USD10 million to fund the
production of a biography similar to that of
[Saddam] on Al-Arabiyah. Millions of dollars from
public funds were spent. But we don't see Al-
Arabiyah or any Lebanese channel showing campaigns
for Prime Minister Al-Ja'afari, who has had to rely
on the free public service messages provided by
official channel (al-Iraqiya) to all lists. There
is a huge difference between a ruler who serves his
people and a ruler who serves his interests by
exploiting his people." (NOTE: Prime Minister
Ja'afari has made liberal, some would say excessive,
use of al-Iraqiya to highlight the successes of his
government.)

Sad Footnote
------------

12. (U) One of Iraq's most famous political
cartoonists, Mouayad Na'amah, died November 27 in
Baghdad of a heart attack. Na'amah at the time of
his death was still publishing in independent al-
Mada newspaper, where he received countless threats
from insurgents for his strongly critical depictions
of Zarqawi and al-Qaida. During Saddam's era, he
also drew fire for his cartoons, which always pushed
the edge of what was tolerated in the press.

SATTERFIELD

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