Friday, December 01, 2006

Iraq Ministry Forms Unit to Monitor News

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq's Interior Ministry said Thursday it had formed a special unit to monitor news coverage and vowed to take legal action against journalists who failed to correct stories the ministry deemed to be incorrect.

Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman for the ministry, said the purpose of the special monitoring unit was to find "fabricated and false news that hurts and gives the Iraqis a wrong picture that the security situation is very bad, when the facts are totally different."

He said offenders would be notified and asked to "correct these false reports on their main news programs. But if they do not change those lying, false stories, then we will seek legal action against them."

Khalaf explained the news monitoring unit at a weekly Ministry of Interior briefing. As an example, he cited coverage by The Associated Press of an attack Nov. 24 on a mosque in the Hurriyah district in northwest Baghdad.

The AP reported that six Sunni Muslims there were burned alive during the attack. The story quoted witnesses and police Capt. Jamil Hussein.

Khalaf said the ministry had no one on its staff by the name of Jamil Hussein.

"Maybe he wore an MOI (Ministry of Interior) uniform and gave a different name to the reporter for money," Khalaf said.

AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll rejected the accusation. "The implication that we may have given money to the captain is false. The AP does not pay for information," she said.

Khalaf said the ministry had dispatched a team to the Hurriyah neighborhood and to the morgue but found no witnesses or evidence of burned bodies.

The spokesman said the ministry had a large public relations staff and said they should be contacted by the media to "get real, true news."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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