Credible reporters in Iraq are a rare breed

Friday 24/07/2015
Sunnis have their outlets, as well as Shias, Kurds, Christians, etc

Of the hundreds of millions of people who have given their lives for freedom, Iraq has given its fair share. People, regardless of their social status, yearn to be free. Be it freedom of expression or freedom of beliefs, “It is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media (regardless of frontiers).” That’s exactly how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated it.

After 2003, Iraq suddenly became all about human rights, civil liberties and, of course, free­dom of the press.

After living under a brutal dic­tatorship for several decades, Ira­qis knew that the time had come to think, express and breathe as they please.

They were no longer limited to watching the two or three government-controlled televi­sion channels, listening to radio stations that the leader wanted them to hear or reading the few books that weren’t banned by the government.

The people of Iraq could finally relish the fact that nobody was monitoring their every thought and dream.

Shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, dozens of media outlets were launched. Every major political party had to have a media platform to spread the word and influence as many people as possible.

Unfortunately, those platforms would be owned by wealthy businessmen who seemed to find themselves prestigious from merely owning TV and radio stations. (This goes without even mentioning the funding coming from corrupt foreign countries.)

Certainly, the political and social situation is a direct reflection of the way the media works in the country. Hence, news is clearly relayed from the financial backers of these institutions. Sunnis have their outlets, as well as Shias, Kurds, Chris­tians, etc.

Of course, an open market like Iraq’s demands journalist who are willing to follow their boss’s direc­tions.

And therein lies the problem.

Journalism became a job for the jobless.

You no longer need a degree to be hired as a reporter. You do not need to have any background or experience to be an anchor and who is to say that you have to be somewhat educated or well-read to host a political talk show that influences hundreds of thou­sands?

Journalism in Iraq lacks ethics, professionalism, taste and, most of all, credibility.

Freedom of speech does not give anybody the right to degrade or infringe upon another or even to report false news simply based on the owner’s agenda.

NBC’s Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was suspended from his post as managing editor because he claimed that a heli­copter he was aboard was struck by rocket fire in Iraq 12 years ago. The network now knows that the claim was false and therefore Wil­liams should be punished.

It will take many years before something like this happens in Iraq for many reasons but the main one would be that there is no full understanding of the meaning of the free­dom of the media and/ or expression.

There is no profes­sional modern media in­stitute that knows how to teach ethics, profes­sionalism or credibility.

That explains why so many people are rushing to be journalists in one of the most dangerous coun­tries to be a journalist in the world today.

It is simply so easy.

To be fair, there are credible journalists in Iraq who could compete with the best journalists in the world. But they are a rare breed.