Via the excellent Coalition for Darfur blog, I see that the State Department is probing into a New York Times advertorial (PDF) paid for by the government of Sudan to see if it violated US sanctions. This is ludicrous. As far as I�m concerned, no newspaper has done more to raise public awareness about that God forsaken part of the world than the Times, and that money will likely help subsidize Nick Kristof�s travel budget.
I tend to think that the not-so-media savvy regime in Khartoum thought they could temper the Times� editorial content by throwing a million dollars their way. But the Times had the last laugh: the very day the advertorial appeared, the Times ran an editorial denouncing Khartoum for spreading the genocide into Chad. Anytime the government of Sudan wants to pay the Times a million dollars, I am all for it.
The State Department has no business investigating the Times. This is the very same State Department, I remind you, which granted a former foreign service officer turned lobbyist a special waiver to let him take on the government of Sudan as a client. The lobbyist, Robert Cabelly, had a contract for some $500,000 to promote Sudan�s image on Capitol Hill. That is, until Frank Wolf, who is the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds State, fired off a very angry letter to Secretary Rice and had Cabelly�s waiver revoked. Perhaps it�s time he write another one demanding that the State Department get its priorities right and do more to punish Sudan, not the newspaper that made Darfur a household name.
--Mark Leon Goldberg