Allawi buys off journalists

My good friend and former colleague Steve Negus had a gem in this morning's Financial Times: Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is bribing reporters at $100 a head for favorable coverage in the upcoming elections.

After a meeting held by Mr Allawi's campaign alliance in west Baghdad, reporters, most of whom were from the Arabic-language press, were invited upstairs where each was offered a "gift" of a $100 bill contained in an envelope.
Many of the journalists accepted the cash - about equivalent to half the starting monthly salary for a reporter at an Iraqi newspaper - and one jokingly recalled how Saddam Hussein's regime had also lavished perks on favoured reporters.
Giving gifts to journalists is common in many of the Middle East's authoritarian regimes, although reporters at the conference said the practice was not yet widespread in postwar Iraq.

Seek comfort in that the US is trying to make Iraq in its image: the best democracy money can buy.

Update: When I asked Steve what he did with his $100, he aptly responded "Why, I passed it on to my tribal retainers of course. That's what maintaining a patronage net is all about." And apparently a talking head on Al Jazeera called this "the first cheating of the campaign, as reported on the Financial Times" today.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,