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U.S. Seeks Firm to Check Iraq Coverage

September 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The U.S. command in Baghdad is seeking bidders for a two-year, $20-million public relations contract that calls for monitoring the tone of Iraq news stories filed by U.S. and foreign media.

Proposals, which are due Wednesday, ask companies to show how they'll "provide continuous monitoring and near-real-time reporting of Iraqi, pan-Arabic, international and U.S. media," according to the solicitation issued last week.

Bidders also will be evaluated on how they will provide analytical reports and customized briefings to the military, "including, but not limited to tone (positive, neutral, negative) and scope of media coverage."

The winner of the contract will probably also be required to develop an Arabic version of the multinational force's website.

Attempts by the Associated Press to contact officials connected to the project via telephone and e-mail were not successful Thursday night.

The program comes during what has appeared to be a White House effort to take the offensive against critics at a time of doubt about the future of Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed the American Legion's national convention in Salt Lake City on the issue this week, stressing that the Bush administration was countering extremism with hope and democracy.

The military last year was criticized for a public relations effort that included hiring a consulting firm that paid Iraqi newspapers to carry positive news stories about the war.

Pentagon officials have defended the program as a necessary tool in the war on terrorism. Critics have said it contradicts American values of freedom of the press.

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