The International Federation of Journalists today launched its report on a mission to Iraq carried out by a seven-strong team of international journalists, which concludes that there is “determination to break the strangle-hold of political control” among Iraqi media professionals.
The mission, made up of journalists’ leaders from the Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Great Britain and France, was led by the IFJ and the Cairo-based Arab Federation of Journalists. The report strongly criticises the military occupation for “actions to try to manipulate and control media” which, they say undermine efforts to create support for genuinely independent journalism.
The mission also calls for the withdrawal of measures that try to “discipline, control and censor information” in favour of confidence building work that will create respect for editorial independence. A letter of protest to the Governing Council outlining complaints by journalists was delivered by the mission leaders, Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ and Mahboob Ali, Vice President of the Federation of Arab Journalists, after a meeting with Governing Council officials.
The mission, the first by a group of international trades unionists since the war a year ago, was carried out from January 19th – 25th this year. The group travelled from Baghdad to Irbil in the north of the country. They met with foreign correspondents, local journalists and leaders of journalists’ groups in Baghdad and in Kurdistan.
Although serious divisions between journalists remain, the mission claims some success in bringing together leaders of the Kurdistan Association of Journalists and the Iraqi Union of Journalists, a group trying to reform itself after years under the control of Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, who have agreed on a common programme of professional and social development.
“Journalists are hungry for change,” says the mission report. “Journalists are determined to break the strangle-hold of political control. They are prepared to work together to build a campaign for media rights and independent journalism. This must be at the heart of any strategy for democracy and human rights in Iraq.”
The IFJ has prepared a programme of work following discussions with Iraqi journalists, which they say will provide the framework for journalistic development and reorganisation of journalists’ organisations in the country following the transfer to democratic rule in the country.
During the visit the mission took part in a seminar on journalists’ safety organised for Iraqi journalists by the International News Safety Institute. Security and protection of journalists will be a top priority in the action plan for Iraqi journalists developed following the visit. Other actions will focus on trade union and professional development and the creation of a unified and inclusive national organisation for all Iraqi journalists.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries