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Friedensförderung durch Brücken der Verständigung
Peace Building through Bridges of Communication

 

 

 

THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS' NETWORK
IJNet - Issue #295  –   
February 14, 2005

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATES PAYMENTS TO JOURNALISTS

 The U.S. Defense Department’s chief investigator is looking into charges that the Pentagon is paying journalists to write articles and commentary for a Web site designed to influence public opinion in the Balkans.

The site in question, the Southeast Europe Times (http://www.balkantimes.com), bills itself as a “a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe.” There is just one mention on the site that it is sponsored by the U.S. European Command the base in Germany responsible for all U.S. military activities in Europe and North Africa.

Air Force Lt. Col. Derek Kaufman, spokesman for the European Command, told Wired News that the military created the site during the U.S. air war in Serbia. The goal was to counter what officials called a “Serb propaganda machine.”

“It’s very much an effort to provide a voice of moderation, but it’s not disinformation,” he said. “Every printed word is truth.”

In a recent memo cited by CNN, however, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said the site’s contractor should only hire journalists “who will not reflect discredit on the U.S. government.”

The site employs about 50 freelance journalists in the region, according to the Wired News Web site. The European Command pays the journalists through a private contractor called Anteon.

Kaufman said that military experts at European Command do not edit the stories. Instead, they “review” the articles after Anteon edits them. They do, however, change headlines. He cited one example for Wired News where the original headline, “Croatian Prime Minister Remembers Holocaust Victims,” was changed to, “Croatian Prime Minister Remarks On Dangers of Extremism.”

Larry Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, denied any inappropriate activities. But Di Rita has requested that the department’s investigator general, Joseph Schmitz, review the case. He said the department wants to “make sure that [it] is staying well within the lines.”

Meanwhile, the European Command is developing a second site, Magharebia, for readers in North Africa. It launched the project in October 2004 as one of the newest “weapons” in the war against terrorism. The site has not yet hired any correspondents.

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/02/04/web.us/.

Wired News: http://www.wired.com/news/conflict/0,2100,66520,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_3

 

source: IJNet295
published by: Daniela Mathis dma@medienhilfe.ch date of release on this site 18/02/05 

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