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US military pays "press club" to cover stories
Updated: 2005-12-10 09:26

A US investigation into allegations that the American military is buying positive coverage in the Iraqi media has expanded to examine a press club founded and financed by the US Army, the USA Today daily newspaper reported Friday.

The Baghdad Press Club was created last year by the US military as a way to promote progress amid the violence and chaos of Iraq, the newspaper reported, citing Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman.

The Army acknowledged funding the club and offering "reporter compensation," but insisted officers did not demand favorable coverage, the report said.

Members of the club were not required nor asked to write favorably, and were simply invited to report on events, another military officer, Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone, was quoted as saying.

Press club members were invited to cover US-led reconstruction efforts, such as restored sewage plants and newly-opened schools, Ahmad al-Hamdani, a reporter at Alhurra, an American-funded television station, were quoted as saying.

The syndicate of 25 to 30 freelance reporters and staff employees for televisions and newspapers were paid about 25 US dollars for each story and 45 dollars if the piece ran with photos, and television reporters were paid 50 dollars for pieces, he said.

The American military was conducting an investigation into whether there were efforts to place US-produced stories into Iraq's local press without identifying the United States as the source. The probe was launched after allegations surfaced that the US military was paying to place stories and disguise the source, the report said.

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