Communications in crisis: media situation in Iraq

Today I attended the lecture by one of the renowned media advisors: Communications in crisis – the cost of misunderstanding media after war.

We were mainly discussing the media situation in Iraq. Speaker was bringing some particular examples from the field.

Obviously there are many issues in Iraq and media is a mediator in this case. Effective media strategies promote educational messages. Community radios oftentimes address various complex issues and help people on the daily basis as well.

The speaker pointed out there is no history of teaching media law in Iraq, no convergent issues courses in university. Anyone could go to the media4 if someone failed medical exam or law course at the university, then he or she go to media.

Bloggers often don’t understand the risks, for example, whom to accept to the friends list on FB. So sometimes those new friends start spying for the government.

Donors are starting to look away from traditional forms of media and drifting away to the internet. Conventional media are trying to monopolize the donor funding, but instead of fighting they should combine the features of the two. However it rarely happens.

Media in Iraq is:

– Sectarian;
– Unprofessional
– Not well respected
– Badly taught
– No representative institutions or unions
– Ignorant of issues around convergence

However the budget did not really matter. With all these money you would think that we have a very professional media system, it is not the case. Media is very stereotypical and there is no context to the stories.

Context
• Sectarian nature of Iraqi politics;
• Military enforcement of digital and political divide;
• Iraq’s emergence from isolation of war and sanctions coincided with the explosion in global;
• Ignorance of issues around convergence

Iraq’s telecommunication sector is buoyant. Internet penetration is around 1%, but it is higher in Kurdistan region, some people are using unlicensed WIFI, so the estimate number is around 5-6 %

Objective

• Create advocacy platform for the right to information Law;
• Support development of institutional policies for RTI;
• Create demand for internet freedoms;
• Strengthen capacity of media to monitor and report on ICT;
• Digital media literacy to protect activists/NGOs;
• Access to ICT through pilots

The speaker was brining some interesting examples. However I had a very peculiar doubt: who decides what is good for Iraq or any other country in the world? Why do all these Western NGOs feel that they know better and they know how to do things? Oftentimes their good intentions do not go too far: they lack knowledge of local traditions and societies in those countries are more complex and diverse that one could imagine. Why all these western companies assume that the only good way to do things is a Western Way? No answer, they just assume it as a given, by default. But to me it seems like a new way of colonizing countries: democratization.

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