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The Iraqi Media Under the American Occupation: 2003 - 2008

Abdullah, A.D. (2011). The Iraqi Media Under the American Occupation: 2003 - 2008. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The American war on Iraq in 2003 has unleashed tremendous changes to the Iraqi media. It has been changed from a draconian, state-run institution into a free-for-all one. However, the relative freedom the media enjoyed was marred by the US management of the press, as part of the military operation and the campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis who were suspicious of America’s plans for ‘liberation and democracy’. The stages of this US policy of press management and its impact on the shaping of the Iraqi media are the core elements of this thesis.

This study examines the relations between the media in Iraq and the American occupation military forces, including the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). It focuses on how American practices formed the media in Iraq after the invasion, how these practices and policies have affected the freedom of press and whether they conform to the international standards of journalism. It argues that the American policies undermined their promises to create free, independent and professional journalism in Iraq, and call into question the sincerity of their intentions. It presents evidence that the Iraqi media has been a tool used for the benefit of the American forces and the established Iraqi government.

To show the US dominance of the Iraqi media, the thesis studies the American policies and practices of building some of the Iraqi media institutions, and how they were used as part of US psychological warfare. The thesis also details how these media organisations developed through the years of the occupation; first serving the American agenda and tactical requirements, and then being handed to the Iraqi government to start a new era of state–run media in the name of democracy, or given as a gift to loyal individuals who served the Americans during the occupation.

The various factors that have influenced the Iraqi media after the 2003 invasion have been discussed at length. A qualitative methodology acted as a basis for an in-depth examination of the establishment and performance of the Iraqi media organisations, which were created by the American army. Unprofessional practices, unethical policies and negative influences on news coverage riddled the Iraqi press throughout the period of military occupation. Figures in the American and Iraqi administrations and militaries, as well as influential members of the media organisations themselves, all had a hand in manipulating the press to propagate material that furthered their ideological and tactical goals. A severe lack of laws to protect journalists and their organisations and of a professional media greatly restricted the freedom of reporting, and stifled the growth of a free and independent media.

In analysing the history of Iraqi media, it is clear that the development of journalism in Iraq was directly affected by frequent changes in the Iraqi political administration and military leadership. In the Middle East politicians and militaries often held dominating positions in their relationships with the national media. The unethical policies imposed upon media organisations by the powers that be had a detrimental effect on their human resources and on practices within the institutions, which has in turn led to the current distortion and inefficiencies in the performance and professionalism of Iraqi media.

By close examination of American policies regarding the Iraqi media sector, similarities can be found between American practices in Germany and Japan after World War II. Here they made the fatal error of applying policies that were far more successful in Germany and Japan, directly to the situation in Iraq, without sufficient regard for the context of the situation in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. A close study of US-established Iraqi media brings to the surface the particular tools used to control the press. This offers a valuable insight into the major influences on Iraqi news, aimed at improving the image of American forces and the Iraqi government, which was under American supervision. The study begins with the premise that media is recognised as one of the most powerful tools in highlighting problems within deeply divided societies, and that it can help shape and influence public attitudes towards overcoming such tensions in national communities.

This thesis has been constructed empirically by approaching media organisations, journalists and newsrooms, as well as politicians and military figures from both the Iraqi and American administrations, in order to define the degree to which the quality of professionalism within media organisations was influenced by the power of both the American and Iraqi governments and militaries. Finally, the study reveals how, in order to serve tactical aims, the American administration built up state media organisations disguised as professional and independent broadcasters.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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