A broader investigation into pay-for-play in Iraq

In addition to placing stories in the Iraqi press, the U.S. military has been paying Iraqi journalists.

Published December 9, 2005 6:47PM (EST)

As the U.S. military continues to plant American-written articles in Iraqi newspapers, the investigation into that questionable practice is expanding to cover another: The military's practice of paying Iraqi journalists to write stories about U.S. reconstruction efforts.

Knight Ridder first broke the story of these payments last month. According to its report, Iraqi newspaper, TV and radio reporters who join the "Baghdad Press Club" -- a group formed by U.S. Army officers last year -- receive as much as $200 per month from the United States, depending on how many favorable articles they write.

The program started as a way to reward Iraqi journalists who risked their lives by attending U.S. military briefings in the high Green Zone, Knight Ridder reported. But like everything else in Iraq, it seems, a U.S. military official in Baghdad said the program "has gotten out of hand."

Ahmad al-Hamdani, a reporter at Alhurra, an American-funded television station, tells USA Today that newspaper reporters in the Baghdad Press Club have been paid $25 for each story they write about U.S. reconstruction efforts. They get $45 if the story includes pictures, and TV reporters get $50 per report, he said.

Such payments weren't uncommon under the Saddam Hussein regime, but it's not so clear how they fit in with Donald Rumfeld's claims that the United States is teaching Iraq about the importance of a "free media."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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