A delegation of the International Federation of Journalists and the Federation of Arab Journalists, led by IFJ General Secretary Aidan White and FAJ Vice-President Mahboob Ali, today (January 24) concluded a week-long visit to Iraq with a call for international support for a practical programme to build unity, professionalism and a secure environment for Iraqi journalism.
The six-strong delegation, whose visit follows an IFJ-FAJ agreement on co-operation made in Rabat in April last year, held meetings in Baghdad and Arbil, where significant agreements were reached by journalists groups from Baghdad and Kurdistan to work together on a trade union and professional development programme.
The mission also held talks with foreign and local correspondents about the current media crisis in the country.
The mission is proposing a five-point programme of training for Iraqi journalists covering union building, ethical journalism, rights of women in media, news safety and media regulation, including the future of public broadcasting, media law and negotiations with the authorities. This programme they say is urgently needed to improve professionalism and to spark a national debate about how journalists should organise themselves once elections take place and democratic rule is established.
“Journalists are hungry for change,” said Mr White and Mr Ali after the visit. “They are determined to take journalism out of political pockets and create a democratic media culture that will respect editorial freedom and pluralism.”
The IFJ-FAJ team admits there is a clear challenge to create unity among journalists in the current climate. “All journalists, provided they accept the values of press freedom and respect for human rights, have a stake in the future of media in Iraq,” they said.
“It is essential to break with the past and to shape a new media landscape,” they say. “For the first time journalists say they are free, but many still lack the professionalism and confidence in their independence that is vital to the future.”
Earlier the leaders of the mission sent a formal letter of complaint to the Governing Council expressing concern over the treatment of journalists by the occupation authorities and over attempts to bully journalists over what they write and broadcast.
The mission members will prepare a full report for leaders of the IFJ and FAJ and a joint statement of conclusions will be issued later.
The initial verdict of the delegation is hopeful for the future.“There is a real chance now that despite their many differences, journalists are prepared to work together to build a campaign for media rights and independent journalism. That must be at the heart of any strategy for democracy and human rights in Iraq,” they say.
Members of the mission were
General Secretary of the IFJ
Vice President of the Federation of Arab Journalists and President Yemen Journalists Association
Treasurer of the IFJ and National Union of Journalists (UK and Ireland)
Olivier Da lage,
National Union of Journalists (France)
Sofiene Ben Hamida,
Deputy Secretary General of FAJ and Vice President Association of Tunisian Journalists
General Secretary Eygptian Union of Journalists