IFJ leaders joined last 27 June their member union in Iraq, the Iraq Journalists’ Syndicate (IJS), to celebrate the 146th anniversary of Iraqi Journalism in an impressive event which attracted hundreds of journalists, politicians, academics and media executive in Baghdad.
IFJ President Jim Boumelha and Executive Committe members Franco Siddi and Abdelnasser Najjar were hosted by Executive Committee member and president of the IJS, Moaiad Al Lamy, in a rare display of solidarity.
“It’s extraordinary,” said the IFJ president at the opening of the event, “that in these critical circumstances where the very future of the country remains under threat by the Islamic State which made important inroads occupying 30% of Iraq, journalists can still get together at the cusp of momentous events gripping the country and make a powerful case for strong journalism seeking to fit within the seismic shift that is shaking the region.”
The celebrations were opened by Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who lauded the role of journalists in the fight to build a better democracy in Iraq.
Salim al Jabouri, speaker at the Iraqi Parliament, also addressed the celebrations by unveiling several major pieces of legislation being prepared, including a law on Communication and Media Commission which will replace order 65 issued in 2004 by Paul Bremer as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a Right to Information Law and a Freedom of Expression Law. Previous parliaments discussed various drafts but did not proceed in the face of fierce opposition from Iraqi organisations including the IJS. It is hoped that, this time, Parliament would consult journalists and other concerned parties.
The most poignant moment was the rapturous welcome to the families of Iraqi journalists murdered last year. Iraq remains the country with the highest number of journalists killed anywhere in the world while doing their job.
“We cannot celebrate journalists’ day without remembering the hundreds of journalists who fell in Iraq. We should never forget their sacrifice. We are duty bound to keep on honoring them and campaigning in support of their families until justice is done,” added Boumelha.
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries