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More than 150 journalists from all sectors of media around Iraq met last week to define an urgent agenda for media that puts safety of journalists and press freedom to the top of the agenda for action in the coming months.
A series of meetings over three days organised by the Iraq National Journalism Advisory Panel (INJAP), which brings together journalists’ groups and media from all parts of the country and covers all communities, was held in Irbil, Northern Iraq, under the theme “A Free Press for A New Iraq’’.
The meetings were hosted by the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate (KJS) an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists which is supporting a programme of co-operation among journalists’ groups including the Syndicate, the former Iraqi Syndicate of Journalists and the newly-formed Iraqi Press Union.
The meeting signals a breakthrough in co-operation between journalists’ groups. “The fact that colleagues from the main districts could sit at the same table and exchange opinions in a climate of intellectual tolerance made us believe in a better future for the Iraqi media,” said A. Taleb, co-ordinator of the IFJ solidarity office in Baghdad.
“This is a major event in the history of journalism in the country, said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, and this meeting represents an important step along the path to unity and solidarity among journalists in Iraq.”
The conference was divided into five sessions with 13 lecturers addressing participants on the difficulty and dangers that Iraqi media face today. The conference highlighted the following key issues of concern to the Iraqi media:
1) Safety and protection: the new government and media employers must provide better protection for both local and foreign journalists and media staff.
2) Media law reform: All journalists’ unions and associations are to nominate representatives specialized in national media law to engage in dialogue with the new government.
3) Independent and Quality media: All participants agreed to work together to demand editorial independence for journalists and to promote tolerance, combat racism and discrimination and contribute to an understanding of cultural, religious and ethnic differences.
4) Social and professional rights: the meeting said there should be the full development of training programmes on professional issues and trade union rights.
The meeting was a boost for the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, but also reinforced the need for a national process of joint actions to bring together journalists’ groups with the aim of creating a unified approach that will benefit all journalists.
“I cannot but feel optimistic even if I know that there are still difficult times to come,” said A Taleb. “We needed support to meet and talk, and the IFJ has provided vital support from the beginning of the crisis. We now have to move ahead.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries