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Marines prepare to distribute gear for unbiased Iraqi media

16 May 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Marines from 1st Marine Division and the Spirit of America charity are working together to help build Iraq's "unbiased" media infrastructure.

According to Lt. Col. John Lutkenhouse, the division's plans officer for economic development, the Los Angeles-based charity donated more than $80,000 in audio and video production equipment.

"Right now, the Iraqis are receiving a lot of their information via electronic media outlets," explained Lutkenhouse, of Sunnyvale, Calif. "The principal message they're hearing is from people who don't want us to succeed, like the Al-Jazeera network. If we don't have something to balance out those messages, the people will be inclined to believe the false information."

The gear is already earmarked for delivery to seven news stations in the Al Anbar province within the next few weeks.

Spirit of America sent cameras, editing software and computers, monitors and cables to the Marines to distribute.

"We want to push out the division's 'no better friend' message to the people," added Maj. Holden Dunham, media operations officer. "We're up against Arab perception at the moment. Our goal is to get the truth out there, and the Iraqis can form their own opinions."

The hardware is intended allow credible media to operate without censorship or undue influence.  Once the Iraqi Media Network receives the gear, Coalition Forces will not have a say as to what can and cannot be covered. Still, there will be stipulations.

"This will not be a Coalition-controlled media outlet," Lutkenhouse said. "But they will be required to not put out anti-Coalition propaganda."

Lutkenhouse said those in charge of reporting the news do not have to be for or against the Coalition, but they do have to report the facts in an unbiased manner.

"We will use the media outlets for our public service announcements," said Dunham, of Dallas. "Eventually, we'll purchase air time when the networks get up and running."

The PSAs will be used to keep Iraqis safe.

"Most of them will be about safety," Dunham added. "They'll remind people that there is still a curfew and how to look out for improvised explosive devices - things like that."

Both Lutkenhouse and Dunham agree that this donation will help the 1st Marine Division in its security and stabilization mission here.

"We want to get the truth out there," Lutkenhouse said. "We believe we are doing the right thing for the Iraqi people. I truly believe the truth will stand on its own."