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In volatile Iraq, US curbs press

US issues an order against inciting attacks on minorities or US troops.

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The once occasional attacks on US soldiers here are growing deadlier, and more frequent: Wednesday, a US soldier was killed and another wounded in a drive-by shooting. And outside the former Republican Palace, now the headquarters of the US administration, US troops killed two Iraqis during a protest by former Iraqi soldiers that spiraled out of control.

At least some of the fuel for the anti-American fire, US officials here charge, is being pumped out by new Iraqi media outlets.

L. Paul Bremer, the top US official here, says a new edict prohibiting the local media from inciting attacks on other Iraqis - and on the coalition forces - is not meant to put a stopper on the recently uncorked freedom of speech.

"It is intended to stop ... people who are trying to incite political violence, and people who are succeeding in inciting political violence here, particularly against women," Bremer said at a press conference Tuesday.

Iraqi journalists are not taking kindly to the restrictions. Among the scores of new publications that have flooded Iraq's newsstands since the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, the broadsheet As-Saah is one of the most widely read. In a front-page editorial Wednesday, the paper's senior editor let readers know what he thought of the country's liberators: "Bremer is a Baathist," the headline reads.

In an interview, editor Ni'ma Abdulrazzaq says the press edict decreed by Bremer lays out restrictions similar to those under Mr. Hussein. Not long ago, an uppity writer could easily be accused of being an agent for America or Israel. "Now they put plastic bags on our heads, throw us to the ground, and accuse us of being agents of Saddam Hussein," the editorial reads. "In other words, if you're not with America, you're with Saddam."


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