Joseph Braude in Slate:
How do you spin democratic elections in Iraq when your boss is an authoritarian ruler with a restive population?
First option: Pretend those elections never happened. I scoured this Monday’s major Libyan papers online for any evidence that Iraqis voted the day before and found nothing. Well, almost nothing: The Tripoli daily Al Zahf al Akhdar buried–under reports of momentous African conferences and ambassador meet-and-greets–a piece titled, 27 People Killed in Iraq. The article noted that “Police sources in Iraq said that no less than 27 people were killed in attacks targeting voting centers in sundry parts of the country.” Voting centers? Whatever for? It seems unwise for a government-run propaganda sheet to print stories that create more questions than they answer–advice apparently heeded by the Sudanese daily Al Ra’i al Am, which in contrast to its Libyan counterpart, simply printed nothing about Iraq in its Monday edition.
The other tactic–and the more popular one–takes into account the fact that most Arab majorities have alternative sources of information, making a news blackout on the Iraqi elections infeasible. In these countries, the role of the pro-government press isn’t to hide facts, but rather to spin them to the benefit of the ruling regime. Which explains why so many Arab newspapers dwelled on the negative Monday in their pieces on the Iraqi election.