Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Iraq: Apr/May ‘10

Former trainees say participation in IWPR workshops has helped them get ahead in journalism.
By IWPR

Iraqi journalists say the skills they have acquired from IWPR training and mentoring have played a crucial role in their career development, enabling them to get good jobs in local media organisations.

A straw poll of journalists trained by IWPR since 2003 have said the lessons they’ve learnt and the experience they’ve gained has helped them advance in Iraqi print, television, radio and online news operations. In particular, they link their success to IWPR’s support for their skills development, including in-class and practical training with the Institute’s editor-trainers.

IWPR has trained at least 900 journalists in reporting, editing and management over the past few years. Scores of these trainees have gone to get good jobs in media throughout the country.

Former IWPR trainee journalist Frman Abdul-Rahman now heads the documentary department at the Kurdish News Network, KNN, a prominent satellite news channel based in Sulaimaniyah, in Iraqi Kurdistan. He has authored a journalism handbook based on IWPR’s training sessions.

He has also held managerial posts in local media and currently sits on the editorial board of Wusha, the media company that runs KNN and other news outlets.

Abdul-Rahman was first trained by IWPR in 2004. He began his journalism career in 1999, but had “very local and limited” exposure to media.

“I had no opportunities for career development prior to IWPR training,” he said. “Before IWPR courses, I thought journalism was just [about] writing. Everything I’ve learned about journalism I’ve learned from IWPR.”

Abdul-Rahman trained local newspapers and journalists on feature writing, based on the skills he acquired attending IWPR’s courses and under the mentorship of editors.

“Part of the reason I got those positions, including the last one, was because of IWPR’s training,” he said.

“Today there is a generation of journalists in the [Kurdistan] region called the ‘IWPR generation’,” he said. “They work at different news organisations, and are known to be highly professional, paying attention to editing and accuracy. They practice professional journalism.”

IWPR-trained journalist Ali Kareem, who serves as Baghdad Radio’s newsroom manager, first attended an IWPR training course in 2005. Since then, he has participated in four workshops “which really impacted me as a reporter … At the beginning [of my career], I would write standard news and stories that didn't take much effort.

“But after IWPR’s courses I developed great feature-writing skills and wrote many stories that were published online. At that time, I was working as a correspondent for Baghdad Radio, but after proving myself a s a good reporter through IWPR’s courses, I was promoted to newsroom manager in March 2010.”

Samah Samad, an IWPR-trained reporter in Kirkuk, who is editor of Warden, a women’s magazine, said IWPR’s courses and practical training have helped to develop her career.

Samad, who first attended an IWPR course in 2003, has written extensively for IWPR. She began her career as a local reporter in Kirkuk, and after attending many IWPR courses was able to work for the regional and international press.

“I was one of the luckiest people because I began working with IWPR right at the beginning of my career, so I had the opportunity to really develop my skills,” she said.

“I'm very proud that I'm an IWPR reporter. Wherever I go, [journalists] immediately notice my unique style of writing stories and the skills I gained from IWPR’s helpful courses.

“Each course taught me something new … Now I can better write a story and the editor won't have as much trouble editing it. I have a strong background on the basics of story writing, thanks of course to IWPR’s training.”

Uthman al-Mukhtar, an award-winning Washington Post special correspondent in Anbar and a regular contributor to IWPR’s output, has worked as a journalist with local, Arab and international news organisations since 1998.

"The most important thing I’ve learned from working with IWPR is accuracy,” he said. “Reporting the news accurately and fairly was a central problem for the Iraqi media before and after 2003. In the time of the former regime, reporting was subject to selective and sectarian tendencies.

“With IWPR, I learned that I have to report the truth as it happens. It has permanently influenced me. Accuracy has become an integral part of my work. IWPR gave me confidence in myself. They made me the key player writing the story and asked me to take pictures, unlike the other organisations I worked for.”

IWPR local editors Mohammed Furat and Hogar Hasan contributed to this report from Erbil. Editorial coordinator Farah Ali contributed from Baghdad. 

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