Back to Index

IRAQ: American-appointed TV director quits (8.10.03)

US-appointed Iraqi TV director quits: The postwar director of US-backed Iraqi Television has quit, saying the US is losing the propaganda war to countries like Iran and to Saddam Hussein.

Three months after being flown to Baghdad on board a US plane to re-launch Iraqi television and radio, Ahmad Rikabi has returned, disillusioned, to self-imposed exile in London. He said that as the US failed to invest in Iraqi stations or to retain local staff, channels such as Iran's al-Alam and Qatar's al-Jazeera were gaining popularity in Iraq. "The people of Iraq, including the Sunni Muslims, are not about to turn against their liberators, but they are being incited to do so... You need television at their level," he said.

Rikabi uttered the first words broadcast on Iraqi national airwaves after the fall of Saddam Hussein on April 9: "Welcome to the new Iraq." Rikabi helped recruit a team that got transmission up to 16 hours a day but many of the staff, who were poorly paid, have now left, Rikabi said.

SAIC, a California-based company contracted to re-launch the television station, said it had no comment on Rikabi's remarks. In exile Rikabi worked with the US-funded Radio Free Iraq. Of the millions of Iraqis in the diaspora, he was among the first of only a few to have returned to Iraq since the US invasion. He had never seen his homeland before, his father and mother having escaped from Iraq in the year he was born, 1969 (Reuters 8/6/03).

RH: It may just be a case of Iraqis resenting exiles coming back to take administrative jobs, especially one who was not even born in Iraq.

Ronald Hilton - 8/10/03