Editor-in-chief of U.S.-funded Iraqi newspaper quits, complaining of American control
By Lee Keath, Associated Press, 5/3/2004 14:47
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) The head of a U.S.-funded Iraqi newspaper quit and said Monday he was taking almost his entire staff with him because of American interference in the publication.
On a front-page editorial of the Al-Sabah newspaper, editor-in-chief Ismail Zayer said he and his staff were ''celebrating the end of a nightmare we have suffered from for months ... We want independence. They (the Americans) refuse.''
Al-Sabah was set up by U.S. officials with funding from the Pentagon soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein last year. Since its first issue in July, many Iraqis have considered it the mouthpiece of the U.S.-led coalition, along with the U.S.-funded television station Al-Iraqiya.
Zayer said almost the entire staff left the paper along with him and that they were launching a new paper called Al-Sabah Al-Jedid (''The New Morning''), which would begin publishing Tuesday.
Zayer had sought to break Al-Sabah away from the Iraqi Media Network, which groups the paper, Al-Iraqiya and a number of radio station and is run by Harris Inc., a Florida-based communications company that won a $96 million Pentagon contract in January to develop the media.
''We informed (Zayer) that the paper would remain part of the IMN,'' said Tom Hausman of Harris' corporate communications. ''He made the decision to resign.''
Hausman said Al-Sabah would continue publishing on Tuesday with a new staff.
''We had a project to create a free media in Iraq,'' Zayer said of the founding of Al-Sabah. ''They are trying to control us. We are being suffocated.''
Zayer accused Harris of interfering in the paper's workings, including trying to stop some of its advertising and speaking to reporters about articles.
Among the ads that he said Harris tried to prevent was advertisement from a new political organization called ''the Iraqi Republican Group.'' The ad ran in Monday's issue the last put together by Zayer's staff.
The ad complained of the ''griefs of occupation'' and called on Iraqi elite to rally ''to preserve our nation from destruction.''
Zayer said he was told by Harris that the ad was ''too political.''