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Communication and Information Sector's news service

UNESCO supports free and independent media in Iraq

21-11-2007 (Amman)
UNESCO supports free and independent media in Iraq
Iraqi journalists
© Voices of Iraq
There have been 205 media killings in Iraq since March 2003, according to Reporters Without Borders. In order to support free and independent media in this country, UNESCO Iraq Office has recently organized a series of workshops, in the framework of the Communication and Information Programme for Iraq.
The first workshops, facilitated by the UNESCO Iraq Office and BBC World Trust, took place from 21 to 25 October 2007. They focused on the development of a code of ethics and practical tools to protect Iraqi journalists.

"After 2003, Iraqi media professionals had to start from scratch. They had to fill the vacuum of the state-controlled media and build new organizations and practices based upon principles of independence and democracy," noted Salah Khaled, who gave opening remarks representing the UNESCO Iraq office.

The participants adopted an action plan on the safety in Iraqi media organizations that included codes and procedures that will be disseminated to all staff. They also agreed to establish a fund to support families of media workers who were killed. The participants recommended organizing a meeting in Baghdad in the near future that will bring together media managers, Iraqi government officials, journalists' organizations and Iraqi Media Safety Group (IMSG) to follow-up and finalize this action plan.

The workshops provided a forum for broadcasters to start discussions on the development of a Code of Ethics that will promote a framework for professional conduct and responsibility. According to Mohamed Djelid, Director of the UNESCO Iraq Office, "Iraqi media organizations recognized their responsibilities in protecting their employees. They agreed to do everything in their power to provide staff with suitable and safe working environments."

A second set of workshops, organized by the UNESCO Iraq office, the Communications and Media Commission of Iraq (CMC) and Albany Associates, took place from 4 to 7 November 2007. They aimed at discussing the legal and regulatory framework and a broadcast law. Over fifty Iraqi members of parliament, representatives of the judiciary, media professionals, as well as regional and international experts participated in these workshops.

In his opening remarks, Mogens Schmidt, UNESCO's Deputy-Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, stressed the fundamental role the media could play in Iraq’s reconciliation process.

"Legal frameworks provide a structural character that point to the future," he said. "We must develop these structures as part of a long-term vision for reconciliation and development. This media law must be connected to long-term thinking in Iraq," he continued.

The outcomes of the workshops included several concrete recommendations, affirming the existence of the Communications and Media Commission of Iraq (CMC), the national independent media and telecommunications regulator that has been in place since mid-2004.

The CMC, which is one of only a few public bodies referenced by name in the Iraqi constitution, was established in accordance with international best practice, and the legal and regulatory framework associated with it is considered to be the most progressive in the Middle East.

Participants also recommended removing criminal penalties, including imprisonment, from a draft media and communications law, which was the subject of a high-level technical meeting held as part of the workshops.

UNESCO, as the only UN agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression, will continue to support Iraqi efforts to maintain an independent communications regulator that is in line with international best practices.

UNESCO’s Communication and Information Programme in Iraq implements a series of projects based on a strategy that locates the importance of a free and independent media within the framework of good governance and constitution building, evolving democratic processes and national reconciliation.
Related themes/countries

      · Towards democracy in Iraq
      · Freedom of Expression: News Archives 2007
      · Press Freedom: News Archives 2007
      · Iraq: News Archives 2007
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