WASHINGTON – President Bush is disturbed by the U.S. military’s practice of paying Iraqi papers to run articles emphasizing positive developments in the country and will end the program if it violates the principles of a free media, a senior aide said Sunday.
“He’s very troubled by it” and has asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to look into the pay-to-print program, national security adviser Stephen Hadley said.
“If it is inconsistent with the policy guidance it will be shut down,” Hadley said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Even if the stories are factual, “it’s got to be done in a way that reinforces a free media, not undermines it,” Hadley said.
A Washington-based contractor, the Lincoln Group, was authorized to pay Iraqi papers to run articles, compiled by coalition forces. The stories often praise the activities of U.S. and Iraqi forces, denounce terrorism and promote reconstruction efforts. The Lincoln Group has a contract for $6 million to perform public relations and advertising work in Iraq.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said Friday the practice of planting favorable stories without disclosing the source was wrong, but “the disinformation that’s going on in that country is really affecting the effectiveness of what we’re achieving, and we have no recourse but to try and do some rebuttal information.”