BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York, this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. This week, coordinated attacks in Iraqi cities north and south, including Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi and Baghdad. And war raged in the media, too, as terrorists broadcast their threats and distributed them on leaflets. The violence in word and action has intensified in the run up to Wednesday's historic handover, when U.S. forces transfer control over Iraq to Iraqis. But many political analysts argue that the celebrated handover will not really hand all that much over. Coalition forces will retain control of much of Iraq's security and may even reserve the authority to impose martial law, should it come to that.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Also on Wednesday, the Coalition-run Iraqi Media Network will pass into Iraqi control, and it's supposed to form the core of a new public broadcasting service. But the CPA has long been accused of being heavyhanded in its effort to shape the message, and those charges have continued in the run up to the handover. Simon Haselock, the CPA's head of media development and regulation, has tried to prepare for an orderly transition. To that end, he oversaw the passage of order number 65, which established a regulatory structure for Iraqi media complete with what he calls an FCC-style commission. But Steven Schwartz of the Weekly Standard told us last month that Haselock is over-regulating Iraqi media before it even has the chance to breathe on its own.
STEVEN SCHWARTZ: Decree number 65, which is a classic Simon Haselock type decree, basically gives the Coalition and its successor, the government of Iraq, regulatory control over print media, broadcasting, coverage of elections, mobile telephone services, internet providers and internet cafes. This is from Al Sabah's editorial, quote: "This commission will be lawmaker, prosecutor and judge."
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The aforementioned Simon Haselock is the CPA's head of media development and regulation, and he joins us now. Welcome to the show.
SIMON HASELOCK: Thank you very much.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So let's turn to Steven Schwartz's problem with decree number 65.
SIMON HASELOCK: First of all, it's not a decree; it's an order. But the order is, contrary to what Mr. Schwartz says, nothing like the Ministry of Information. It does only what the FCC does in that it issues broadcast licenses to television and radio operators, and it'll also regulate telecommunications. It has no statutory jurisdiction over the press. Order 65 says that the Commission will be empowered as the FCC is to establish codes of conduct which become attached to licenses. And those codes of conduct should be established in consultation with the profession and be based upon, you know, normally-accepted principles. For instance, you might have a code of conduct which says simply that journalists are required to tell the truth, that both sides of any given story must be given, that people should be given the opportunity for a right to reply--
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Those codes aren't written in there now, is it? I mean that goes far, far beyond the American FCC.
SIMON HASELOCK: First of all, nobody's imposed anything. Nobody's drawn up any codes. All order 65 does is enable the Commission to start thinking about what sorts of codes that the Iraqis may need. They may decide that they don't want a code of conduct for the print, which will be self-regulatory, may decide it doesn't want a code of conduct or content for broadcasting. These things are not prescribed by the Commission; they are decided upon by a consensus and by a public consultation process. There are, and I would make no bones about it, some orders which have been issued by the CPA -- nothing to do with me, I hasten to add -- which do put some restrictions on the press -- one is specifically is order 14 which is essentially an order which restricts incitement to violence. That is the only legal restriction that there is, and I think it's only been used on two occasions. Whether it should have been used, and the fact that there was no due process in the way it was used, is another matter. And the fact is that the commission which will be established by order 65 will establish the due process that was missing in the application of that particular order.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What about Schwartz's concern that, you know, this will impose what amounts to a chilling effect on freedom of speech by dint of the fact that it's out there monitoring every aspect of the airwaves, and also the internet.
SIMON HASELOCK: I, I think that carries a basic misunderstanding of the way an independent regulatory agency works. Are you seriously suggesting to me that a sovereign Iraqi government will not take unto itself, particularly at this state, a much more chilling politically and state-governed institutional framework for regulating the media control than it would be if it was an independent organization run by a board of governors who have been appointed specifically to protect the independence of the organization from state interference and from political interference, that it is subject to regular audit and reports that it has to make to the national assembly when it's formed? I think that institutionally we have created as many checks and balances as we can. If you speak to the broad mass of journalists and look at the broad range of newspaper articles that have been in Iraq about this commission, they're all, although concerned about what's going to happen when the government takes control of the reins, so to speak, they are broadly happy that there is going to be an independent agency and not something residing inside a ministry.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mr. Haselock, under this new framework, how involved will foreign money and foreign journalists be in supporting and overseeing local Iraqi media?
SIMON HASELOCK: Well it won't be involved in overseeing it at all. The point is, this is an Iraqi institution. What foreign governments and foreign institutions will do is offer their expertise and, in some cases, resources as far as training is concerned. The Iraqi Media Network, the whole point of that, is that it shouldn't be supported by foreign funds at all. At the moment, I mean, people have talked about the amount of money which had been put into it by the U.S. government. But over the next year or so, we will hope that the IMN as an institution, and all the other media in Iraq, become self-sufficient.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What do you think of the notion that the Iraqi media ought to be allowed to develop utterly unfettered, the way it did in the United States in the days after the revolution where there was a great deal of instability?
SIMON HASELOCK: First of all, we don't have 200 years in Iraq. Secondly, we have learned a lot in that 200 years about how certain structures actually assist the development of media. You know, nobody has considered regulating newspapers. The fact is that broadcast frequencies are a limited public resources which should be managed. The second thing is that if you want to actually create a marketplace, you need to create a structure where investment has some form of surety. In the early stages of the time after Saddam, nobody was licensed, there was a hundred broadcasters, they were largely run by political parties and religious groups on capital, and as the capital ran out, these broadcasters failed, and nobody with any real business acumen or any media background was prepared to come and invest in Iraq because they had no guarantee that they could get licenses, they had protection of their property or that they had any corporate legal framework which would protect their investment. But I, I do get very frustrated, because people always believe that when you mention the word "regulation," in these sorts of societies, that you're talking about trying to censor people.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Simon Haselock, thank you very much.
SIMON HASELOCK: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Simon Haselock is the CPA's head of media development and regulation.