Democracy

PR Firm Hired to Sell Democracy to the Iraqis

"The United States-led occupation in Iraq
has enlisted a British public relations firm to help
promote the establishment of democracy in the country.
The firm, Bell Pottinger, based in London, is creating
television and radio commercials that will explain to
Iraqis how and why the United States is handing over
sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in June. The
campaign will begin next week on local and satellite
stations in Iraq. Bell Pottinger, a subsidiary of Chime Communications, has

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E-voting Fails the Beta Test

California legislators want to stop the use of all paperless electronic voting machines in the state, fearing the same type of fiasco that plagued Florida in the 2000 election. State Sens. Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate election committee, have written a letter to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, urging him to decertify all paperless touch-screen voting machines before the general election. The March 2 primary "was a test-flight of widespread use of these machines.

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Welcome to the Machines

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and PR giant Burson-Marsteller are launching "Help Ohio Vote," a state-wide, 18-month, $15.3 million PR and advertising campaign "educating Ohio voters about new [electronic] voting machines." The massive campaign includes focus groups, media tours, ads, direct mail, and an "embedded" media program.

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Crisis (of Confidence) Management

Diebold Election Systems has launched a five-year, $1 million "outreach campaign" to educate Maryland residents about its voting machines. The campaign, which will include radio and TV commercials, a website, more than 1.5 million brochures, and voting demonstrations, begins just prior to Maryland's March 2 primary.

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Human Rights, or the Illusion Thereof

The UN is pushing for the arrest on war crimes charges of General Wiranto, Indonesia's former military leader and a strong candidate in July's presidential elections. Wiranto has "hired American campaign advisers and published an English translation of his memoirs" to "burnish his image internationally." Major U.S.

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A Hard Spin: War Crimes Suspect to President

Indonesia will hold its first-ever direct presidential elections in July 2004. Noting that Indonesia is "a thriving democracy where public opinion matters," a partner in the Jakarta-based PR firm Maverick writes in today's Jakarta Post that "the more forward-thinking" candidates "have already appointed their image gurus." Not every candidate will clean up well, though.

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Attack on Academic Freedom

With little fanfare and almost no media coverage, Congress recently passed House Resolution 3077, which threatens academic freedom by imposing rules on what professors can and can't teach. HR 3077 focuses in particular on "area studies" (university programs that study international culture and politics in specific regions of the world).

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Freedom of the Press in Iraq

"Freedom of the press is beginning to smell a little rotten in the new Iraq," reports Robert Fisk, listing some of the fatwas that U.S. Proconsul Paul Bremer has issued against Al Jazeera and other Arab media. "Things are no better in the American-run television and radio stations in Baghdad. The 357 journalists working from the Bremer palace grounds have twice gone on strike for more pay and have complained of censorship.

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