Controlling the Media to Win “Hearts and Minds”

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Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon planned to enact the “Rapid Reaction Media Team” (RRMT) complete with hand-picked Iraqi media experts. Two of the contractors involved were the Rendon Group (a shady firm working in Afghanistan) and Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) where- guess who?- Paul Wolfowitz’s lover Shaha Ali Riza worked until 2003.

“Strategic communication” to serve global US interests in countries that are geo-strategically significant is not new. In Afghanistan, for example, the Rendon Group and Lincoln Group work around the clock to construct favorable press about American military interventions in countries that have been invaded by the US.

Indeed, Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, says that because “there are few places more critical to our interests or in greater need of sustained U.S. attention than South Asia,” “free and independent information is the number one means to clearly portray U.S. interests in South Asia ‘s economic growth and democratic reform.” And as such, we need to “support journalism training to attract students and journalists from across South Asia region.”

So much for the freedom of the press.

—Neha Inamdar

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