Calls to abolish ministry press offices

21/02/2012 16:35
BAGHDAD, Feb. 21 (AKnews) Press offices for ministries should be abolished because they limit information rather than strengthening the role of media, criticized media commentators and observers.

In addition to naming various ministries and government bodies for lacking an official spokesman, the critics singled out the Council of Ministers spokesman, Ali al-Allak, who simply publishes a statement an hour after the weekly Federal Government meeting.

Among the 12 ministries said to have poor press relations was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Industry and the Ministries of Interior and National Security as well as the Investment body, the Accountability and Justice body and the National Reconciliation Commission.

A chief complaint was that the statements of government officials often conflict about political and security events taking place in the country.

Sattar Jabbar, a media commentator in the Nas (People) newspaper, told AKnews: "Our problem with the spokespersons for the ministries is that most of them do not know anything about their work.

"Their statements are old and are usually published by the minister's office. I decided to contact the ministers directly and ignore the spokespersons because they don't give new information.

"Their work is against the law and their presence is also a kind of disguised unemployment."

The Transport Minister has also come under fire. Despite being appointed the spokesman for his ministry. he does not speak to any media under the pretext that he is not authorized to give press releases.

Similarly the spokesman of the Education Ministry is said to refuse to answer reporter's questions, and will only discloses the activities of universities.

Some press offices have also been accused of limiting information to certain foreign news agencies for money. The oil ministry in particular was accused of having an exclusive deal with three known foreign news agencies, excluding other media organizations from any new information.

Ali Shami, a media commentator with Iraqi Information Center says: "Some of the spokespersons do not know the functions of their ministry, announce false things and then withdraw their comments.

"I think that the appointment of these persons in their places is a favor by the minister."

The media are not the only vocal critics of the government press offices. The chairman of the Culture and Information Committee in the Council of Representatives, Ali al-Shalah said:

"The Committee is surprised that some ministries are escaping the questions of media and journalists, including the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, the Trade Ministry and others.

"Iraq is a democratic country and everything should be clear in terms of government institutions."

The Trade Minister recently issued a circular to all Director-Generals in the ministry to prevent them from making any statement to the media. The ministry was criticized earlier this month by the Economics Committee of the Council of Representatives.

The Iraqi government also decided to limit media statements about government affairs to the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and government spokesman.

By Saman Dazzayi