Originally created 12/16/03

Iraqi media celebrates Saddam's capture



BAGHDAD, Iraq -- During his 23-year rule of Iraq, Saddam Hussein always had his picture on front pages of its daily newspapers, along with praises of "His Excellency Mr. President, the leader."

He was on the front pages again Monday - this time in photographs depicting a disoriented, bearded Saddam in U.S. custody.

"People live their great happiness with the capture of their tyrant and executioner," blared a red headline in the weekly independent KululIraq, a paper founded after Saddam's fall in April.

The paper had a color picture of Saddam wearing a thick beard after being captured Saturday by U.S. troops north of Baghdad.

Pentagon-funded TV station Al-Iraqiya, run by the Iraqi Media Network, had continuous programs Sunday about Saddam's dictatorship, as well as images of celebrations throughout Iraq of his capture.

The station broadcast a live news conference by L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator; Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq; and members of Iraq's interim Governing Council. During the conference, Iraqi journalists stood and screamed anti-Saddam slogans.

"The tyrant fell in the trap and eventually, the dictator who filled Iraq with blood, tears and mass graves was captured," the editorial of the daily Azzaman said. "It was not surprising for a person like Saddam to end up with such a fate."

Azzaman was published in London while Saddam was in power and moved to Baghdad soon after U.S. troops swept into the capital.

During the last part of Saddam's presidency, the media was very tightly controlled and no foreign newspapers were allowed into Iraq. Satellite dishes were banned, and cable television was prohibitively expensive. The sole windows to the outside world were radio stations like the BBC, Paris-based Radio Monte Carlo, and the U.S. government's Arabic-language SAWA Radio.

Since Saddam's regime was overthrown in early April, a throng of freewheeling newspapers, radio and television stations have sprung up to replace the sycophantic media.

Al-Iraqiya ran footage of people being executed during Saddam's rule as well as documentaries on the crushing of the 1991 uprising in southern Iraq that left tens of thousands of people dead. Also shown on the station were images from the 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja that left at least 5,000 civilians dead.

"The dictator who liquidated and slaughtered his people and destroyed the country's wealth is consigned to history. There he is surrendering, subservient and disappointed," said Azzaman, which had two pictures of Saddam on its top half - one with a beard and another after he shaved.