May 2007 – March 2008
Good Governance through Support for Independent, Pluralistic, Professional, and Sustainable Media in Iraq, funded by UNESCO, is designed to extend and deepen the commitment to freedom of expression in Iraq. The project includes interventions that will promote and support the media sector and instill effective, independent regulation. IREX Europe implements project components as part of a consortium led by the BBC World Service Trust and including Albany Associates.
The project builds on initiatives through technical support, knowledge and skills transfer, and capacity-building, maintaining the continuum of development of the last four years.
Media Sustainability Index
The second annual Media Sustainability Index (MSI) has been implemented in Iraq with the involvement of more than 50 Iraqi journalists, editors, media managers and civil society activists. IREX conducted two regional panels in the northern and southern areas of the country and one national panel as it produced the comprehensive review of the media environment in Iraq. The MSI is a standardized methodology developed during the last six years to allow comparison of the strength of media sectors over time and across borders. The results assess the legal system in place, free speech, access to public information, the professionalism of journalists, the strength and independence of the media market, the quality of management and editorial independence, and the strength of supporting institutions. The Iraq MSI is available in both Arabic and English.
The first MSI conducted for Iraq showed press freedom and plurality of news sources were viewed as the relatively strongest features of the country’s nascent media sector, but those objectives recorded sharp drops for 2007. For the second year, business management of the media sector was seen as the weakest area, reflecting both lack of experience in this area among media managers and also the degree to which media outlets are considered political tools rather than business interests.
This deteriorating situation is reflected in the MSI score for Iraq 2007, which recorded an across-the-board retreat from progress made toward five objectives of a sustainable, pluralistic and active media sector. The overall country score for Iraq in 2007 was 0.92 on the 0-4 MSI scale, down from 1.16 for the 2006 report and indicating that forces actively oppose media freedom, professionalism is low and media industry development is weak.
Raising awareness of freedom of expression and access to information
Another component of the project is a series of awareness raising initiatives to highlight the importance of an independent media in Iraq to the Iraqi legislature and the general public. IREX organized the first event in Amman, Jordan, in December 2007. The workshop helped the Iraqi participants to develop practical strategies that they could apply on the ground in Iraq. They shared new skills at subsequent workshops in Erbil and Basrah, and developed publications and awareness-raising campaigns using small grants awarded by the project.
Three journalists were commissioned to prepare and then publish a series of analytical articles, radio interviews or other outputs on the themes outlined during the workshops. The primary emphasis was on the links between strong media sectors and democratic and economic development. Despite the critical security situation in Iraq, the grants were implemented successfully and the writers continue to produce reports on the topic.
Support Strategies Grants
One of the main successes of Erbil workshop was the creation of a coalition made up of the participants. The coalition was named Access to Information Coalition (AIC), and its stated purpose is to lobby for free access to information and freedom of speech. The AIC subsequently went on to implement a Support Strategies small grant. Among the activities carried out were three workshops in Erbil, Duhok and Sulaimaniah, one Regional Forum for all AIC members (60 participants attended), and various radio programs, newspapers articles and website postings.
Other IREX Europe projects in Iraq:
Iraq : Building a Sustainable Independent Nationwide News Agency for Iraq
Iraq - Re-Versioning and Re-Broadcasting of “Our Constitution” Live Studio Debate Programs
Iraq 2006 Media Sustainability Index (MSI)