BAGHDAD Iraq's government launched its first channel on Google Inc's video website YouTube on Wednesday, which the prime minister said would allow the country to counter media "lies" and showcase its successes.
Nuri al-Maliki, whose Shi'ite Muslim-led government is seeking re-election in national polls in early 2010, said the YouTube channel would help dispel the "lies and misleading information in the news" which did not reflect Iraq's progress.
The new channel does not allow viewers to leave comments.
Iraq's boisterous media has had unprecedented freedom since the 2003 U.S. invasion ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
But a recent spate of lawsuits against foreign and local media outlets critical of Maliki, his office or his government, new regulations for broadcasters and moves to censor books and the Internet have raised fears of a crackdown.
Relatively few Iraqis have Internet access in their homes, and where it is available, the low bandwidth makes online videos stutter as data is downloaded at relatively low speeds.
The government's move comes a day after Google CEO Eric Schmidt, visiting Baghdad, said his company would put images of artifacts at Iraq's national museum online, part of a U.S. government-backed effort to entice high-profile firms to Iraq.
In a statement on Tuesday, the U.S. embassy said the YouTube channel would include clips from parliamentary sessions, direct messages from Iraqi leaders to citizens and instructional videos on how to engage with state services.
(Writing by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Louise Ireland)