The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) visited Baghdad 14-15 October to attend a series of meetings hosted by its affiliate the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate (IJS) to address safety and impunity in the country. The IFJ / IJS delegation met first with media managers and editors to address the responsibilities of employers to protect their staff. Then they met with the ‘Iraq National Committee On Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity’ to review the authorities performance in tackling impunity and improving journalists’ safety.
On 14 October, fifty managers, editors, senior journalists and journalism professors convened to review the current safety crisis facing journalists and draw lessons for the future.
Participants agreed on two key proposals:
- The establishment of a safety fund for Iraqi journalists with financial contributions from the employers, the IJS and the IFJ. The fund will be used to provide safety trainings and safety education and campaigning material.
- A programme to introduce in-house safety officers responsible for overseeing the safety of media staff. The IFJ will train media representatives to develop safety protocols, operational safety plans for staff and field reporters, and individual safety training provided employers commit to allocating the necessary resources to the work.
Monir Zaarour, IFJ director of policy and programmes in the Arab World and Middle East, said that the commitment of employers to the duty of care of their workers is essential for developing an industry wide safety culture. “Media should stop sending their crews to the front line without adequate training, equipment and insurance”, he said.
In a statement issued on 15 October, following a meeting with the IJS and the IFJ, the ‘Iraq National Committee On Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity’ agreed to establish a Follow up Committee to monitor the investigations on threats and attacks against journalists in the country.
The Follow up Committee will be headed by a judge from the higher judiciary council and include investigation officers and representatives of the Interior Ministry’s Department for Media. The Committee will be tasked with following up on cases of threats against journalists to ensure proper investigation takes place and accordingly, adequate protection is provided to threatened journalists.
Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary, said: “The IFJ recognises the scale of the safety crises facing journalists in Iraq caused by the ongoing war in the country that has lasted for almost 15 years. We welcome the determination of Iraqi officials to make every effort to put an end to the attacks on journalists, including the establishment of the Follow-up Committee. We are committed to work with the IJS and the media to provide safety trainings and expertise for journalists and the media to reduce the security impact on journalists.“
Moaid Al Lami, IJS president, said: “We welcome the renewal of the Iraqi authorities, their commitment to the safety of journalists and to do all they can to bring the perpetrators to justice. The IJS is committed to support a safety programme for Iraqi journalists. But the union also needs the commitment of media organisations. The union is including articles on journalists’ rights to safety trainings and appropriate insurances in the draft collective agreements it will start negotiating with media in the coming weeks.“
The IFJ has invited representatives of government ministries and state institutions, as well as members of the Iraq National Committee on safety of journalists and the issue of impunity to a meeting at its headquarters in Brussels within the next 6 months to review the work done in the frame of the Follow up Committee.
The UNESCO office in Iraq also participated in the discussions with the ‘National Committee’ on 15 October. It reaffirmed its commitment to support the Iraqi stakeholders in their endeavours to reduce violence against journalists and end impunity in the crimes against them.
More than 460 journalists have lost their lives in Iraq in the past 15 years, according to the IJS registry. The Federation has included Iraq as one of its target countries in this year’s end impunity campaign to start on 2 November.
Update: 18 October 2017