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U.S. widens Iraq media coverage inquiry

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BAGHDAD, Dec 9, 2005 (UPI via COMTEX) -- U.S. investigators have expanded their Iraqi news coverage query to examine an Army-financed press club.

The Baghdad Press Club was created last year by the U.S. military to promote progress amid the violence and chaos of Iraq, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman, told USA Today.

The Army acknowledges funding the club and offering "reporter compensation," but insists officers did not demand favorable coverage.

"Members are not required nor asked to write favorably," said Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone. "They are simply invited to report on events."

The investigation was launched after allegations surfaced that the U.S. military was paying to place stories and disguise the source. Paying reporters directly to write positive stories might also violate ethical guidelines.

Ahmad al-Hamdani, a reporter at Alhurra, a U.S.-funded television station, said press club members were invited to cover U.S.-led reconstruction efforts with payment ranging from $25 to $50. Hamdani said, however, he never participated in the practice.


Copyright 2005 by United Press International

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