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Interview with Emad Alkhafaji, Independent TV journalist

Over 100 Iraqi journalists attended the International Conference on Freedom of Expression and Media Development in Iraq, at UNESCO Headquarters from 8 to 10 January. Emad Alkhafaji, spoke about his work in what has become the most dangerous country for journalists.
Interview by the UNESCO Bureau of Public Information

Q: In view of the violence in Iraq, are you able to carry out your work professionally?

A: Right now it’s very hard. There are many kinds of dangers, from the militias, from terrorists and even from the government. Many of them don’t believe in free media. They may say they do, but maybe they think that free media are media that make no problems, I hear this from many politicians. When you talk about corruption, or the killing of people and who is behind that, you are making problems. The danger in other countries may be that you are put in jail or fired from your work, in Iraq the danger is that you be fired from your whole life.
There is a feeling, while you are on the street in Iraq that you will be killed. As a journalist you are in the middle of danger, so the possibility of being killed is probably more than ordinary people. That’s why there is a feeling that this is OK, I will be killed but let me know who is going to take care of my family when I leave this life.

Q: What do you expect of conferences such as this one?
A: This is very important. Even if it’s not going to solve the problems, it raises the questions openly. I think the donors who are giving money to Iraq should ask the government, about freedom of speech and about protection of journalists and their families.

Q: But if you ask a government to protect journalists, is there a danger that this means asking the government to control journalists?
A: Yes, I didn’t mean that the government should protect me by giving me a weapon. The minister of the interior said he’d give us pistols. But everyday I asked myself, shall I carry that pistol to protect myself? No, I shouldn’t. I expect to carry a camera or a pen, not a pistol. I am not asking for that kind of protection. Until today the government is not asking, if I have health insurance, if I have some kind of protection in case I get fired, some kind of pay if I go to a dangerous place. The Iraqi government is not asking the foreign media what they are doing with Iraqi journalists, what are they giving them. Most of the foreign media in Iraq are working through Iraqis, but they are not giving them anything except for small salaries.
I am asking the government to ask the media companies, or any companies, “what do you have for your Iraqi employees?” Sometimes the companies say, we have the right to hire you or fire you any time but if you want to resign you should to ask us a month in advance and you don’t have any rights but if you get killed that’s your own responsibility. You need to work 24 hours seven days a week. And what do you give them? Nothing.

Photo: © UNESCO
Date de publication 11-01-2007 4:00 pm
Date de publication 11-01-2007 4:00 pm
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