Iraq is located in southwest of Asia continent, and enjoys an important position in the global transport, as it is located at the shortest land crossing between the Mediterranean coast and the Arabian Gulf. Iraq is 435 square kilometers, and despite its small size, Iraq has played an important role in the history of the Arab world during different eras.
Far back in the past Iraq was a homeland for the Babylonian and Assyrian civilization and culture. Baghdad was Iraq’s capital during the era of the unified state of the Abbasid Caliphate, known as the “golden age” due to the prosperity in science, medicine, engineering and mathematics.
As for the geographical nature of Iraq, it has a broad valley surrounded mostly by highlands. It is also called the Mesopotamia referring to Tigris and Euphrates rivers that pass through its territory.
As of 2014, Iraq’s population estimates 36 Million.
The capital, Baghdad, located in central Iraq, has the highest number of population with seven million people, followed by Nineveh province, in northern Iraq, with 3.5 Million, and Basra province in southern Iraq, with 2.5 million people.
What was the influence of Iraq’s geographical, religious, ethnic reality on the media and how did the content of the media change after the recent ethnic and sectarian conflicts in the country?
In the past, the media landscape included several newspapers and only two channels, one broadcast and one satellite, however, today there are dozens of media outlets.
How does the media operate under the current status of the country’s liberties? And where does it get its financial resources?
What is the rate of internet penetration and mobile phones’ use? and what is their impact on the creation of a new generation mastering the use of these techniques?
Geographical characteristics of Iraq, its population size and characteristics in terms of religion, race and sex.
The development of Iraqi media since the founding of the first newspaper, radio, television till the Internet.
Conflict areas and conflicts that influenced the content of the Iraqi media.
A review of the most prominent newspapers, radio stations and satellite channels, and what are the most prominent means used in Iraq?
The main owners of the media in Iraq and the role of the new officials in the world of electronic media.
The infrastructure for Internet and mobile distribution and the development in the use of these technologies.
2. MEDIA HISTORY
Since its inception, the Iraqi media went through many stages that changed the concept of modernism and development, and the way Iraqi reality is covered.
One can consider June 15th, 1869 the birth of the Iraqi press, under the Ottoman rule in Iraq, which culminated in issuing the first edition of “Zora” newspaper as the first Iraqi newspaper published in eight pages in Arabic and Turkish.
Following Zora, another newspaper “Almousel”, started to publish in 1885. After 15 years, “Albasra” was published in Arabic and Turkish. It lasted until the start of the British Mandate in Iraq. These three papers “Zora”, Almousel” and “Albasra” were published on weekly basis.
The first political newspaper “Baghdad” was founded by Murad Suleiman in 1908, and was published three times a week in both Arabic and Turkish. It was a prominent pan-Arab newspaper and considered one of the most powerful Iraqi newspapers at that time.
In 1936, the first Iraqi radio started to broadcast, and in 1956 the first TV. The Iraqi News Agency began to work in 1959. The color TV entered Iraq in 1976.
In the beginning, the media impact and spread was limited to the cities rather than the countryside, and this was due to the limitation in broadcast coverage, and the higher interest among the cities’ residents compared to the countryside. This is related to the traditional differences and the limitation of accessibility and distribution in the countryside.
Thus, the elements of what composes today the Iraqi media were completed at the fifth decade of the previous century, which consist of the three main components: the visual, audio and print.
Two weeks after the USA and its allies occupied Baghdad (April 9th, 2003), the Iraqi Ministry of Information was dissolved by Paul Brimer. This has shifted the Iraqi media landscape from state monopoly and domination with multiple newspapers, three broadcast channels and one satellite, into a liberated media without any restrains, nor on quality neither on quantity. The media faced a new era with no regional experience to look at.
The beginning of this phase has witnessed the emergence of a huge number of newspapers and publications. This was one of the new Iraqi media landscape features due to the ease in production and distribution, to the extent that the number of publication has reached 180-200, daily and weekly, with different political, ideological, sectarian and nationalist trends. Many of these publications have later expanded into radio and TV stations, operating either locally, or across the different governorates of the country.
3. SOCIETY & AREAS OF CONFLICT
Iraqi society consists of several religious, ethnic and social groups. However, Iraqis are equal citizens before the law without discrimination based on sex, race, nationality, religion, sect, or the belief.
Islam is considered the official religion of the state, as 97% of the population are Muslims. Sunni and Shiit sects are the two fundamental components of this religion in the Iraqi society.
Islam is spread all over Iraq and then comes Christianity, Sabians, Mandaeans and Yazidis.
Christianity is considered the second followed religion after Islam, and it is acknowledged by the Iraqi constitution, including 14 Christian denominations in the country. They all speak Arabic, in addition to small percentage of Syriac and Armenian speakers.
Christians reside in all governorates of Iraq in various numbers, but the larger numbers are concentrated in Baghdad and in northren Iraq, especially in Nineveh valley next to Mosul.
Arabs compose the majority of the population (75-80% of the total population), followed by the Kurds (12-18%).
This diversity and mixture have resulted in the emergence of different groups and communities, where different religion believes or ethnicities are merged. For example, there is a group called “Al-Shabak”, that lives in east of Musel, and includes different nationalities; Arabs, Kurds and Turkmans.
The main three nationalities in Iraq, are Arabs, Kurds and Turkmans.
Dr. Sarmad Ahmad Alsalmani
Iraq’s contemporary history, according to many observers, is divided into two parts, the first one refers to the era before 2003 and the second is after 2003. The conflict areas have changed between the two eras, and this is due to the political, demographic and geopolitical change in Iraq. This change has also overshadowed the media, which became more open and free with multi-outlets and satellite channels.
This change has led to broader and bigger media landscape and that is why we see how media coverage of conflict areas vary between the different media outlets. This difference is usually attributed to the finance, the political orientation, the policy, and the strategy of the channel.
For an example, if we look at the media landscape today, we see that terrorism is one of the most issues discussed by the media. Indeed, Iraq today is where terrorism is practiced massively, and where the conflict zones are increasing. Therefore, TV channels discuss the issue accordingly, but we can’t find any of them who discusses it impartially and objectively.
These channels are divided into those who do not give much importance to terrorism and ISIS threat, and this is related to the channels policy.
The other part includes the channels who inflate the issue beyond reality. This is also due to political reasons but also could be due to problematic professional morals.
We look today for channels that discuss these issues impartially, objectively and accurately, which can portray the threats of ISIS and its ideology. We are facing today not only an ideological invasion, but also an intellectual invasion that is storming our region.
4. GENERAL INFORMATION
The Iraqi media have changed a lot in the aftermath of 2003, especially the widespread of newspapers and the freedom of publishing, in the absence of any regulations.
And after the diminishing of the copyright regulations, which were prevalent in Iraq under Saddam’s regime, and the decision of the head of civil administration, Bremer, to dismantle the ministry of information, which was responsible for regulating the copyright in IrThe “Iraqi Media Network” was established. It was a semi-governmental institution that adopted the publishing of a daily newspaper called “Alsabah”, other TV and Radio channels, and some other print media. The head of this network is appointed by the Prime Minister, and it is directly subject to the government.
“Alsabah” newspaper is the most important newspaper in Iraq, considering the big financial support it receives from the government, and it’s viewed by the population as the official mouthpiece of the government. This paper makes large profits due to its monopoly over the governmental ads. It was established in 19.5.2003, its first chief editor was Ismail Zayer, and it’s still published until today.
The second most popular newspaper is “Azzaman” and it’s an international Iraqi paper, published by “Azzaman Institute for Journalism and Publishing”. Its founder and head of its board is Saa’d Albazzaz. Its first trial edition was published in 1.4.1998 in London. Later on, a first-in Iraq-edition was published in Basra province in 9.4.2003 following the American invasion. The paper is printed with “The Basra edition” stamp on its first page as it was published in Bahrain and distributed in Basra. Its chief editor is Dr. Ahmad Abd Elmajid.
Then comes “Almada” newspaper, which is an independent newspaper, published by “Almada Institute for Culture and Arts”, founded by Fakhri Karim. Its first edition was published in 5.8.2003. It started to issue twice a week, and later it became a daily. The institution has a private printing house, a publish house and an advertising company. Almada started as an Arab magazine, featuring many of prominent Arab intellectuals.
There is another newspaper called “Al-Ittihad Al-Kurdistani”. It is a political daily, that it belongs to the Kurdish National Union. It is the first Kurdish paper published in Arabic in the Kurdish part of Iraq. Its first edition was published in 24.10.1992 in the Erbil governorate, and one of its main missions was to defend the Kurds’ rights in Iraq. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, “Al-Ittihad” became the first Iraqi newspapers to be published in Baghdad, it was in 22.4.2003 and it was its 539 edition.
As for the radios, “Radio Dijla” is considered the first commercial radio station in Iraq, which adopted the format of “call in” programs, regardless of the listeners political, ideological, partisan, ethnic, or religious affiliation. It was established in 2004 by the journalist Ahmad Al-Ruqabi.
Radio “Almutamar” was founded in 2005 with the direct guidance and financing of the politician Ahmed Jalabi, head of the National Congress. It is a secular radio station that promotes democracy and the agenda of its owner. Its CEO is Entifad Qanbar, and it broadcasts from Baghdad.
As for the TV satellite channels, “Al Iraqiya” channel was the first semi-official Iraqi channel, that belongs to the Iraqi Media Network. Its programs are diverse, including entertainment, sports, cultural, religious, development and political. A department for drama production was established, which had produced many drama productions that were screened on the “Iraqiya”.
“Al Sharqiya” channel is an Iraqi satellite channel that started the broadcast in 4.5.2004 from Dubai, Erbil, London and Amman, on Satellites Arabsat, Nilesat and Hotbird.
Al Sharqiya is the first Iraqi channel owned by the private sector and has reporters in different countries around the world.
It is considered the most watched Iraqi channel and has one of the most financial and human capacities in the Arab world. It relies on commercial advertising and owned by the prominent media figure, Saa’d Albazzaz.
“Al Baghdadia” is another Iraqi satellite channel based in Cairo. It started to broadcast in 12.9.2005, owned and founded by A’wn Hussain Alkhashluk. Some of its reporters were killed during the violent events in Iraq. It has offices in Amman and Damascus, and licensed in Beirut, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and Australia.
“Afaq” satellite channel, belongs to the “Islamic Da’wa party”, headed by Nouri al-Malki.
“Alforat” satellite channel, belongs to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, headed by Sayed Ammar al-Hakim.
5. MEDIA USE
6. MEDIA POLITICS & PRESS FREEDOM
Freedom of press and expression in Iraq haven’t met yet the international-western standards. What exists in Iraq is the pluralism of media, which reflects the partisan, ethnic and religious pluralism.
These media outlets do not work freely, they often face harassment from the different political parties, who are also part of the confused scenery in Iraq, which suffers from instability and foreign interventions, making journalists risk their and their family lives if they reveal facts related to the widespread corruption.
Since 2003, over 700 journalists were killed in Iraq, and that reduced massively the presence of international media, especially foreign journalists.
Article 36 of the Iraqi constitution guaranteed the freedom of press and expression.
Firstly: The freedom of expression by all means.
Secondly: The freedom of press, print, advertising, media and publishing.
Although these freedoms are guaranteed by the Constitution, the Iraqi journalists face many difficulties in ensuring objective and neutral media coverage. Many governmental bodies apply restrictions on media institutions or try to forcefully prevent journalists from covering events. This is usually practiced in the name of protecting the country from media discourse that threatens the social fabric, and the unity of the different factions and ethnicities. In some cases, the Communications and Media Commission, which is a government body, have suspended or closed Iraqi satellite channels under this pretext or other.
The Constitution also stipulates a complete and absolute freedom of the press as an essential part of freedom of expression, but this constitutional provision adopted in 2005 did not translate into legislation. The only law that protects Iraqi journalists was passed in 2011.
Its fourth article states:
“Journalists have the right to obtain information, news, data and statistics, which are not restricted from their different sources and have the right to publish them in accordance to the law.”
Many journalists and media activists objected against this article, and considered it a violation of freedom of expression.
They have also objected against Article 6 of the same law, which states: “Journalists have the right of access to reports, information and official releases, and related entities must enable them to have access to them and make use of them unless the disclosure of the mentioned material is harmful to public order and is in conflict with the law.” Objectors state that this article blocks the full freedom, and prevents publishing any information about administrative or financial corruption, and it also may allow putting journalists on trial, based on the Iraqi Criminal Laws related to libel.
Article 7 of the same Law states: “The tools of journalistic work should not be intercepted except in accordance to the law.” Objectors say this article allows the confiscation of equipment for various reason.
The same goes for Article 8: “Journalists may not be questioned or harmed for their opinions or information they publish, unless their action was against the law.” Objectors agree that this article does not provide protection for journalists, because any free journalistic work, is a violation of the law.
These laws, are added to the authority’s decision number 14 from 2003, which gave the prime minister the authority to close any media institution, confiscate its equipment and money, and even imprison its staff.
Dr. Muhsen Aboud Kashkul
Social Network Sites have special presence in Iraq. Facebook is very popular among Iraqis. People use it to discuss different issues, especially political, considering the free space it offers.
The recent judiciary’s decision to consider Facebook a media outlet, does not hold a legal status, since Facebook, on the one hand, is not a media institution registered in Iraq according to the Iraqi law, and on the other hand, is originally a US site, located outside the jurisdiction of the Iraqi judiciary.
Not to mention the possibilities of hacking of some pages that puts the owners under legal liability.
We do not deny the citizens right to be protected against attempts of defamation or insults and slander, as we also do not deny the need to protect the society from the infiltration of hate speech and extremism, but we believe that in principle, this conflicts with the right of access to information and media freedoms.
Adding to this, our apprehension of the political exploitation of such decision will have a negative impact on media pluralism.So when publishing materials, there must be a professional and objective control, under moral standards. Recognizing the right of the media to know everything, should not mean saying anything. The choice to publish should take into consideration the specificity of the society and the nature of its problems.
7. OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE
The oil sector dominates the Iraqi economy, as it provides nearly 95% of its income. Iraq was a founding member of OPEC and began the oil industry in 1925. It is considered a rich country, where its oil reserves come second after Saudi Arabia’s reserves, and it is estimated to be 150 billion barrels. The major part of the oil reserves is concentrated in the southern regions and it amounts to 71% of the total reserves, while the reserves in the the center and north of the country are estimated to be 12%.
Interview with Dr. Kazem Almeqdadi
Iraqi media is financed by many sources. The main source is the religious parties, which are financed by regional countries, in particular Iran. It funds some of the Iraqi satellite channels that represent the so-called political Islam, and those approach only one sect.
There is also the financing by Iraqi businessmen, who own banks, or have wealth. These businessmen own many of the satellite channels and usually direct their messages to the politicians aiming to blackmail them, so they can get contracts for mega projects, or a political position.
Even though the Iraqi economy depends on oil, this economy did not contribute to the finance of the Iraqi media, i.e. the national economy. Unfortunately, the only case is the case of the Al-Iraqiya and the Iraqi Media Network, that receive funding from the state. The rest of the media, receive suspicious funding, meaning that they do not serve the national Iraqi interest.
There is no red line imposed on the ownership of media in Iraq, however, in reality it is the capital who controls the media. The capital has become powerful after 2003, especially the political, partisan and religious capital. Those who have this power, are the ones who establish media outlets.
Worth noting, most media outlets that emerged after 2003, were means to promote factional, partisan, political and religious interests, which made its coverage unprofessional. However, many known journalists established their own media outlets and were appreciated and distinguished by Iraqis for their professionalism. This was not the case with media outlets that were established by people who have no relation to the profession of journalism and all what they have is their money and power.
Saa’d Albazzaz, head of the Independent Media Group.
He was born in Nineveh governorate in 1952. He is an Iraqi journalist and a business man, who left to London in 1992, after a dispute with the old Iraqi regime, in which he held many media positions, including the vice head of the journalists’ syndicate, who was at the time Uday Saddam Hussein. He established “Azzaman” newspaper in London, which was an opponent to the regime, and established the satellite channel “Al Sharqiya” in 2004, which developed into various TV channels.
Fakhri Karim, head of Almada Institute for Culture and Arts
He is an Iraqi Kurd, born in 1942. He established a publishing house called “Ibn Elshaa’b” in 1959. In 1970, he was elected as the head of the journalists’ syndicate. In 1983, he established “Almada Institute for Culture and Arts” in Damascus, as a pan Arab cultural institute. His media institution owns today a radio station, TV channel and a widely spread daily newspaper and they are all called “Almada”.
A’wn Hussain Alkhashluk, head of Al Baghdadia
He is an Iraqi business man born in 1961 in the city of Qalat Sukkar in Dhi Qar governorate. He left Iraq in 1979 and received his PhD in civil engineering. He founded “Alkhashluk” Investment Group, which operates in Europe, USA, Britain, Africa, UAE and Turkey. He owns Al Baghdadia channel, which is considered one of the most important Iraqi channels.
Nuri al-Maliki, an Iraqi politician, holds a bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Theology in Baghdad and a master’s degree in Arabic from the University of Salahaddin in Erbil. After the decision of the former regime to ban the Da’wa Party, he fled to Syria. After the occupation of Iraq, he became the prime minister in 2006, and he supervises “Afaq” channel.
Ammar Abdul Aziz Mohsen Hakim, an Iraqi politician and cleric, born in 1971. He is the grandson of the religious figure, Mohsen al-Hakim, the Shiite cleric. He left Iraq in 1979 with his father and studied at a secondary school in the Iranian capital of Tehran. Then completed his university studies in the city of Qom, where he earned a law degree. He supervises “Al Forat”, a prominent Iraqi satellite channel.
Ali Asem Aljanabi, head of “Al Rasheed institute for media services”
He was born in Baghdad in 1964. Holds a master’s degree in economy. He is the brother of Saa’d Asem Aljanabi, a well-known politician who heads the Iraqi Republican Assembly, and also runs many companies, in addition to being the original founder of Al Rashid.
Al Rashid institute operates Al Rashid TV channel, which was established in January 6th, 2009, and Al Rashid radio stations in Baghdad, Basra, Nineveh and Kirkuk.
Since I was young, I like journalism, and I wished to work for a media institution as I thought that the national issues, needs to reach the media.
Journalism and media is a hobby, those who look to make money, do not enter this domain.
When I was a child, I used to sit in front of the mirror as if I was a TV host. My father, was a prominent media and academic figure Dr. Muzaffar Mandoub, may he rest in peace. When my brother thought I was crazy, my father smiled and said I was not a crazy and I would be one day a journalist.
I had the desire to work in the media, so I can be a TV host. I started at Al Iraqiya as a news editor and received a lot of support from the director of the channel, Abd Eljabbar Alshabout.
I wanted to work in the media even before I entered the journalism school, and then I did my internship at “Al Rashid” TV channel.
Many ask us how they can be journalists. You need three keys to become a journalist: the talent, the academic education, and to love your profession and work hard to express the concerns of your society.
The journalist is the mirror of the society. Journalism can be the profession of troubles, but the fatigue disappears as soon as you manage to convey your message to others.
Interview with Muayad Al Lami
The Iraqi Journalists Syndicate is responsible for all Iraqi journalists working in media institutions, including TV channels, radio stations, press agencies, newspapers as well as periodicals.
The reality on the ground requires a body that protects these journalists and provides them with training workshops.
The syndicate are for professional journalist and not for amateurs. In order to join the syndicate, one should be working for an accredited media institution. The journalist will also be subject to a test. Also freelance journalists can join the syndicate but they have to go through the editorial and practical tests. A member can be a Photographer, reporter, editor, editorial secretary, chief editor or anyone who works in the media.
The syndicate’s role is not limited to Iraq. It is currently heading the Federation of Arab Journalists, which includes 21 Arab countries. It is a member of the International Federation of Journalists, its main office is located in Brussels and it includes about one million members from 140 countries.
The Syndicate is influential and considered the fourth estate. Its power is equivalent to the power of the judicial, legislative and executive authorities.
Iraq has the highest number of martyrs in the world. It might have more victims than the victims of World War II and the Vietnam War. It has also a high number of journalist-martyrs. Since 2003, over 420 journalists were killed by militants, terrorists attacks or US forces.
9. SOCIAL MEDIA
People vary in their use of media, including traditional or electronic. What are the communication means you prefer; mobile phone, iPad, laptop, or other, and why?.
I prefer the electronic.
At these times, I prefer the electronic media.
I prefer the electronic, like the mobile.
Electronic is better, like the mobile.
Everything is within reach by the mobile, we can get any information, we can get to newspapers, television and radio. They all have sites on the Internet.
The electronic media overshadowed the traditional
The mobile, because it is easy to hold and to access any information I need.
I prefer the traditional media, starting with the TV, then the radio and lastly the newspapers.
I prefer the traditional because it has more credibility. Even though some channels promote rumors and disinformation, I generally prefer the traditional.
The traditional is considered a reliable source and when it passes information, it is sourced by an institution or a person, who is held responsible for the information.
Interview with Dr. Abd Al Amir Faisal, Electronic Media, Baghdad University
Iraq, like other countries in the world, is up to date with technological developments. It has the infrastructure, which helps the citizens to use it easily. The small electronic devices have encouraged this trend. In addition, the increase in mobile usage among people in the age range of 10-40 years or even up to 50 years, enabled them to consume the electronic media.
Today, 80% of the Iraqis use electronic media due to the availability of internet and the required devices, which made internet the favorite media source.
The difficulties facing the traditional Iraqi media, have contributes to this trend, including the decline in newspapers due to lack of funding. In some newspapers the number of pages have shrank. The highest number of print for any Iraqi paper is 7000 copy only and this number is only relevant for the prominent papers. The number of copies for smaller papers is between 1000 to 3000 copies, daily. The total number of Iraqi newspapers copies, don’t reach more than 100.000.
100,000 (5) 100,000* 5 = 500,000 30,000,000
If you multiply 100.000 by 5, which is the highest rate according to International institutions, equals 500.000, this is half million copy. How will half million copy make an impact among 30 Million people.
Therefore, the alternative to this media is the electronic media, and that is why electronic media occupies the first place, followed by the TV satellite channels, then the newspapers and the Radios.