THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS' NETWORKFebruary 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
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.
published by: Daniela Mathis firstname.lastname@example.org
date of release on this site 18/02/05