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Defiant Iraqi Journalists Meet, Set Out Demands

Defiant Iraqi Journalists Set Out Their Demands for Safety and a Democratic Media Culture

The journalists of Iraq are determined to strive for unity, even in the face of a dangerous political impasse over the new Constitution. Meeting in Amman, Jordan last week a group of more than 40 media leaders from journalists’ groups across the country adopted a Charter for Social and Professional Rights and put in place a series of proposals to strengthen journalistic independence.

“Journalists are caught in the crossfire of a dangerous political battle,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary who chaired the meeting. “But they are ready to work together to create a media culture that could be a model for the region.”

The Iraqi media landscape is dangerous and politicised and journalists struggle for professionalism in an environment where they are poorly trained, badly paid and subject to intense pressure from owners, political factions and religious groups.

The meeting adopted a number of proposals that, if adopted, could ensure journalism plays an enhanced role in building a democratic culture in the heavily divided country.

Chief among the demands were

• The creation of a national council for media to act as a monitoring body and as an instrument of self-regulation for Iraqi journalism;
• The preparation and adoption of a code of ethics after detailed consultation with Iraqi journalists;
• A new industrial relations landscape with fair contracts and labour rights for all journalists and media staff;
• The establishment of a national women’s committee for Iraqi media to support gender equality and to promote a national women’s network of women in Iraqi journalism;
• A nationwide training programme on journalists’ safety and the opening of an Iraqi journalists’ safety centre in Baghdad.

Other issues discussed at the meeting included the setting up of a national training infrastructure open to all journalists – including those in the regions – and creating a dialogue with journalists in Palestine, where colleagues work in similar crisis conditions.

“The message from this meeting is that Iraqi journalists are determined, even in the face of violence and intimidation, to stick together to press their demands for democratic, professional and social rights,” said White.

The meeting, supported by UNESCO, the British Trades Union Congress and International Media Support in Denmark, also agreed to relaunch the Iraqi National Journalists’ Advisory Panel, which brings together representatives of journalists from around the country. “This meeting has identified a plan of action for journalism that is urgently needed,” said White. “Now we need the political will to make it work.”

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