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Rumsfeld Praises Role of Free Press in U.S., Iraq, Afghanistan

Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the emergence of a free press in Iraq and Afghanistan is an important current event in both countries, but one which is under-reported by the media.

Speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors April 22, Rumsfeld told the audience that the United States was founded "on the notion that an unchecked government is a major obstacle to human freedom." American leaders, he said, must be "challenged, internally through the complex constitutional system of checks and balances, and externally by a free and energetic press."

Continuing in this vein, the defense secretary noted that the U.S. political system "needs information to be self-correcting. While excesses and imbalances will inevitably exist for a time, fortunately they tend not to last. Ultimately," he said, "truth prevails."

Turning to the war on terrorism, Rumsfeld said he frequently notices "a non-trivial difference between what is reported and the facts on the ground." He said satellite television channels al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyah, both widely watched in the Middle East, "are routinely telling the world lies about coalition actions." But he said this "will be corrected over time." The newly free people of Afghanistan and Iraq, the official added, "are starting to thirst for the truth," even "after decades of being fed lies by dictatorial regimes and the controlled press."

Rumsfeld noted that more than 200 newspapers have appeared in Iraq since its liberation a year ago. As for Afghanistan, the capital of Kabul is home to 100 newspapers less than two-and-a-half years after liberation from the Taliban. By contrast, he said, "Just a few years ago your contemporaries in Iraq and Afghanistan were jailed and tortured and killed if they had the courage to report the news as they saw it."

Rumsfeld encouraged the newspaper editors to tell the whole story about what is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq -- not just the daily fighting, bombing and killing. "The vast majority of the Iraqi people are not rioting, they're not looting, they're not shooting." For every bomb blast, he said, many bombs are defused before exploding because Iraqis tell coalition soldiers where to find them.

"For every building that's damaged by mortar fire, there are many schools and hospitals and clinics that are being built and repaired. And for every Iraqi soldier who was reluctant to fight in the past few weeks, there are tens of thousands of Iraqi security officials who are fighting every day for the Iraqi people, and there have been over 300 Iraqi security forces that have been killed in recent months."

Turning to the work of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, "The courageous men and women who are deployed in those countries, uniform and civilian, are helping the people of those nations to get on a path to self-government and to self-reliance. They do not make headlines, but they are making a difference.

"For the whole story on Iraq, Americans deserve to know about them as well," Rumsfeld said.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


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