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<nettime> waiting for the war
Florian Schneider on Thu, 6 Feb 2003 19:40:05 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> waiting for the war


Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the
nationally syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently
based in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are
coordinating Iraqjournal.org, the only website providing regular
independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.

http://www.iraqjournal.org

FOX NEWS: 'The Network America Trusts' (to pay 'Saddam')
Filed February 1, 2003 by Jeremy Scahill

BAGHDAD--The sat phones are lined up. The tents are in place. Dozens of
languages fill the smoke filled atrium. Every kind of technical
equipment imaginable is scattered about. The scene almost resembles an
eerie version of the quick set up for a heavy metal concert. Welcome to
the Press Center on the ground floor of the Iraqi Ministry of
Information. Over the last several weeks, low-paid Iraqi construction
workers have rubbed elbows with journalists from CNN, BBC, The New York
Times and a slew of other media outlets. The workers are halfway
through a sizable construction project to expand the Press Center to
accommodate the influx of the proverbial herds waiting for the war.

Inside the building, tiny 6' x 6' cubicles are now the hottest real
estate on the Baghdad market. Officially, the space will cost you $500
a month. But space is limited and cash is flowing from the pockets of
the major networks to Iraqi officials and the government to ensure
access once the bombs start flying. But it is not just the cubicles.
Under the government guidelines, journalists cough up a handsome sum of
money to the government and individual officials. Here are the bare
minimums for journalists operating in Baghdad:

--$100/ day fee per journalist, cameraperson, technical staff etc.
--$150/ day fee for permission to use a satellite telephone (which
the journalists have to provide themselves)
--$50-100/ day for a mandatory government escort
--$50-100/ day for a car and driver (some networks have a fleet of
vehicles)
--$75/ day for a room at the Al Rashid Hotel

That's already $500 and that doesn't include the thousands of dollars
daily for each direct live satellite feed for TV networks. Nor does it
include the bribes and "tips" shelled out left and right. Nor does it
include the money handed over at border crossings and the airport. The
networks don't like to talk about how much they actually spend, but one
veteran of the media scene here estimated the cost for a major TV
network at about $100,000 a month. Others say that is a low estimate.
Almost all of this cash (except a few "tips" here and there) goes
directly to the Iraqi government. Once you add up the bill for the TV
networks alone, we're talking perhaps millions of dollars in revenue a
month for the government.

There is a joke here that the major media outlets are now competing
with oil smuggling as the number one money-maker for the Iraqi
government. It is particularly ironic that while Rupert Murdoch's
"troops" from FOX News Network rally for the war, dismissing antiwar
activists as dupes of the Iraqi regime, the "network America trusts" is
paying "Saddam" (as they refer to Iraq) hand over fist tens of
thousands of dollars every month. But stroll down the halls of the
press center and you'll see that Rupert's troops have multiple
battalions. He also owns Sky News (the British version of FOX), as well
as the Times of London. A bit of research would probably find that
Murdoch owns other publications operating here as well. FOX News
reporters (and others as well) like to say "for the benefit of the
viewers" that their broadcasts are being monitored by the Iraqi
government. Fair enough. But perhaps the Murdoch Empire should begin
each of its reports or dispatches from Baghdad by disclosing how much
money they paid "Saddam" today.

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