Sunni insurgents in Iraq are proving to be savvy at getting their messages out to the wider Arab world by issuing daily press releases and video clips through the Internet, according to a report by the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
According to the report, "an alternative, no matter how lavishly funded and cleverly produced, will not eliminate this demand."
Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes said recently that she has just two full-time Arabic speakers reading blogs and trying to counter misinformation.
Daniel Kimmage and Kathleen Ridolfo of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have spent the past few weeks taking their Powerpoint presentation to U.S. officials and members of Congress. In it, they explain how various Sunni insurgent groups are getting their message out.
The modes include a full range of media that would fill a newsstand: daily press releases, weekly and monthly magazines, and books. And online, there are video clips and feature films.
The insurgent press releases, Kimmage explains, can look quite professional, like ones coming out of the Pentagon. And the films — some whipping up fear about Shiite attacks on Sunnis; others heralding Sunni attacks on U.S. troops — are also well produced.
The Bush administration has also been boosting Arabic-language TV and radio broadcasting. But as the new report says, the popularity of Sunni insurgent media online "reflects a genuine demand for their message in the Arab world."
The study's authors recommend focusing not on competing with insurgent media, but instead on "exploiting the vulnerabilities of the insurgent media network."