The International Federation of Journalists says that only a charter of journalists’ rights, including employment protection and more action to reduce risks facing Iraqi reporters will solve the current media crisis in Iraq.
Speaking at a conference in Baghdad organised by the official National Communication and Media Commission on Wednesday IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said that use of the media for political in-fighting and poverty conditions for the journalistic workforce were major challenges to overcome in building a new era for Iraqi journalism.
“What is needed is for political groups to guarantee the independence of journalism and for all media groups to sign up to a charter of basic social rights for journalists and media staff,” said White. “It is impossible to talk of press freedom when journalists are in the midst of such a crisis.”
Journalists in Iraq are the world’s most targeted and brutalised media workforce. Around 85 journalists and media staff have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003. Of this number some 62, almost 80 per cent, are Iraqi.
White said that Iraqi journalists needed to be involved in all of the discussions about media reform and the future and he called for a more extensive and inclusive dialogue, particularly about actions to improve security and protection of journalists.
During the conference, which was attended by about 100 editors, leading journalists, media experts and policymakers, the Iraqi National Journalists Advisory Panel, a group set up in co-operation with the IFJ, distributed a special Iraqi edition of the safety handbook Live News, as well as other materials about journalists’ rights at work, ethical reporting and gender equality in the media workplace.
White said that it was essential for journalists to work together to confront the media crisis in the country, particularly over safety and security issues. He said Iraqi media professionals had to take their own steps to create an independent professional space. There were no models that could be imposed.
“Iraqi journalists themselves must define the way they want to organise and the best way to create genuine editorial independence,” said White. “Media owners and political groups must stop interfering and allow efforts to create a unified and strong journalists’ movement in the country to proceed.”
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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries