Iraq: press freedom faces huge obstacles

BY IFEX| IN Media Practice | 02/07/2003
The Coalition Provisional Authority has issued a nine-point list of prohibited activities for the media.


                                   Reprinted from



The collapse of Saddam Hussein`s regime in Iraq, the country has experienced a media boom, with up to 150 new publications launched in central and southern Iraq. Dozens of new newspapers and magazines have sprouted in the capital, Baghdad, while Iraqi Kurdistan`s media continues to thrive. However, press freedom faces huge obstacles, including the absence of the rule of law, an economy in ruins, inadequate infrastructure for independent media and a lack of balanced reporting in the country.


These are some observations from a report recently published by Index on Censorship, the Baltic Media Center (BMC), International Media Support and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). "A New Voice in the Middle East" is a provisional needs assessment for the Iraqi media and offers recommendations for implementing effective media assistance in the war-torn country.


It is the result of a mission undertaken by Index on Censorship, BMC and IWPR to Iraq in May and June, where the groups met local journalists, donor agencies, Iraqi, U.S. and British political officials and Coalition Provisional Authority representatives. The mission was developed at a coordinated meeting of international media development groups held in London on 24 April (see ).


The report stresses the importance of involving local Iraqi media organisations and journalists in establishing an environment conducive to the free flow of information and open debate.


"The key is a coordinated and strategic approach that will encourage media diversity while seeking to ensure a balancing core of independent reporting and responsible debate. This cannot be delivered by any single body, but will require transparency and consultation, and a willingness by coalition authorities to engage Iraqi media organisations and media professionals, and draw on the expertise of multilateral bodies and international media development organisations and associations."


The report also recommends that the US government "clarify and firmly separate its public diplomacy agenda from any media development strategies" and, as a first step, publish a consultative paper on media policy and law, and "engage in open debate with Iraqi and international media experts."


In recent weeks, the CPA has come under criticism from numerous IFEX members for drafting new regulations aimed at censoring inflammatory coverage in Iraqi media. Paul Bremmer III, head of the CPA, has issued a nine-point list of "Prohibited Activities," which include incitement to racial, ethnic or religious hatred, advocating support for the banned pre-war Ba`ath party, and publishing material that "is patently false and is calculated to provoke opposition to the CPA or undermine legitimate processes towards self-government," reports Index on Censorship.


The imposition of the "code of conduct" is apparently in response to a growing number of anti-US articles in the local press. Newspapers representing political parties hostile to the US have also been publishing unattributed reports of all kinds, accusing the western forces of gang rape, robbery and numerous "insults to Islam," notes Index on Censorship.


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says the drafting of a code of conduct without meaningful consultation among Iraqi journalists will spur resentment and hinder efforts to build a democratic society. "Journalists should be brought together to agree themselves [on] the rules and standards for ethical conduct," IFJ says.


Read the full media needs assessment report here:


See Index on Censorship`s comment on the CPA`s code of conduct:


Visit these links:


International Media Support:



Institute for War and Peace Reporting:



Baltic Media Center:


















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