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U.S.-Backed Iraqi TV's Chief Quits

August 06, 2003|From Associated Press

LONDON — The postwar director of U.S.-backed Iraqi television announced Tuesday that he has quit, saying inadequate funding made it impossible to compete with rival networks from countries including Iran that criticize the American occupation.

In a telephone interview with Associated Press, the director, Ahmad Rikaby, said that while vacationing in London on Friday he had informed the management of Iraqi Media Network that he was stepping down.

"The U.S. didn't really succeed in countering the propaganda of such anti-coalition networks as Al Jazeera in Qatar," he said, complaining that lack of equipment and training for staff members had left the network unable to meet the needs for producing objective news.

He said Iraqi Media Network was able to broadcast only 16 hours a day, compared with 24-hour news reports from Al Jazeera and Iran's government-run Al Alam that included audiotapes believed to be from deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"If Saddam and his supporters didn't think such broadcasts were beneficial to their cause, they wouldn't use them," said Rikaby, 34. "I have no doubt that there is a hidden message in the broadcasts by several Arabic networks inciting Iraqis to resist the push toward democracy."

A spokesman for Science Applications International Corp., the San Diego-based company that was contracted by the U.S. Defense Department to relaunch the TV station, could not immediately confirm Rikaby's resignation.

After U.S.-led coalition forces drove Hussein from power, Rikaby, a former Iraqi exile whose family lives in London, uttered the first words broadcast on Iraqi national airwaves April 9.

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