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The Guardian (UK) reports on documents filed as part of a slander case in London which show millions of pounds transferred from the Saudi royal family to the "Rupert Murdoch of Iraq," the first independent Iraqi media mogul. At question is the motives of Saad Al-Bazzaz in publishing untrue stories about the wife of a Qatar emir in 2001:
Iraq's first independent media mogul has been running his empire with millions of pounds secretly provided by the Saudi regime, according to allegations made in the high court in London.
Based on documents lodged with the court, Saad Al-Bazzaz - dubbed the Rupert Murdoch of Iraq - was alleged to have received the money for the launch of his newspaper Azzaman, which is now the most widely read daily in Iraq. Mr Bazzaz also controls Iraq's first private satellite TV channel.
The papers emerged during a libel action in which Mr Bazzaz, a former exile in London, was accused of running a sophisticated covert propaganda operation funded by Saudi Arabian intelligence.
Bazzaz' attorneys don't dispute the payments, but claim that they didn't affect the independence of Bazzaz' reporting. However, the Saudi funding, while not unexpected, raises serious doubts about the motives of the Saudis and the reporting on the ground from his organization during the upcoming elections. The Saudis didn't want Saddam removed at all, at least not by us, and the last thing they want is a functioning representative democracy on their northern border.
The Wahhabists rely on strict authoritarian rule to keep their populace in line, and the mullahs use the West as a lightning rod for the resentment which builds from it. Only lately have the Saudis seen that terrorism and rage can turn quickly against those who use it as a tool, and so have taken a few steps to modernize their system, such as modest municipal elections. The Saudis will want the Iraqi elections discredited, not to embarrass the Americans or to see Zarqawi take over the country, but simply for the long-term survival of the House of Saud's position and control of Arabian oil.
In any case, just as in the Armstrong Williams kerfuffle, when one receives government money to publish, credibility is the first casualty. Now that Bazzaz has been unmasked as a mouthpiece for the Wahhabists, he may not only go into history as the first Iraqi media mogul, but also as the first to lose everything he's built.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on January 26, 2005 12:24 PM
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