Iraq: Apr/May ‘11

IWPR practical and financial support has helped Iraqi media organisations to overcome problems and prosper.

Iraq: Apr/May ‘11

IWPR practical and financial support has helped Iraqi media organisations to overcome problems and prosper.

Iraqi media say IWPR assistance has played a significant role in helping them maintain and improve their operations.

IWPR Iraq’s media development programme has provided nine Iraqi media organisations essential equipment, advisory services and financial support. Managers say the support has enabled them to maintain steady operations, boost their broadcasting hours and lifted staff morale, empowering journalists to better serve the public.

Two of the nine organisations – the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, JFO, an NGO that monitors violations against Iraqi journalists, and Deng Radio, the only independent broadcaster in Kalar, Sulaimaniyah province – came under threat shortly before receiving IWPR’s assistance in March.

Security forces raided JFO’s offices, seizing files and computers in late February, while Deng Radio’s studio and office was vandalised by gunmen in early March.

IWPR Iraq offered immediate assistance to both organisations following the attacks, including providing JFO with new computers, printers, furniture and other equipment. As part of its media development programme grant, IWPR has since 2010 also helped JFO restructure and provided business development training and furnished and paid rent for its new office in Baghdad.

"IWPR's influence on JFO can't only be measured financially. IWPR has boosted our morale more than anything else,” executive director Ziad al-Ajili said. “It gave us the drive to restructure JFO. Now we have better strategy for the future and a better accounting system, all because of IWPR’s help … JFO now has a strategy to better protect [Iraqi] media workers."

Iraq’s security forces returned the seized equipment and apologised for the raid shortly after it occurred. Deng Radio, which launched in early March, was not as fortunate.

Security forces raided the station on March 4, just a few days after it was launched, and briefly confiscated the equipment before returning it.

Then, on March 6, approximately ten gunmen broke into the independent community radio station early on March 6, destroying all of its recording, archiving, and broadcasting equipment and stealing other items. No one has been arrested for the attack.

IWPR provided Deng Radio with a generator, transmitters, furniture, mixers, microphones, computers, recorders, headphones and marketing and business management training. The support has enabled them to broadcast nearly without interruption – a rarity for small stations that suffer signal cuts during power outages – and boosted their broadcasting hours from five to eight per day.

The staff have been able to produce more interviews and reports, which have widened the station’s audience reach and appeal, Deng Radio executive director Azad Uthman said.

"IWPR's [help] was a huge boost for us,” he said. “When we were attacked, the staff started to lose faith and felt like they were alone. But after the [assistance], their morale is high and they’re performing even better than before.”

IWPR’s media development programme, which ended in March, encouraged and supported independent outlets in Iraq by providing them with operational equipment as well as business development training. The latter included one-on-one mentoring from IWPR experts on marketing, business plan and fundraising strategies, aimed at helping them secure future funding.

The media IWPR worked with “benefited from the tailor-made training courses by specialist trainers on media, business and management capacity-building”, IWPR Iraq programmes director Elias Hashimi said.

“We were also able to help organisations to network and widen their reach by boosting their broadcasting and technical capacities and providing brand new equipment that enabled them to upgrade their facilities. They also learned how to write proposals, develop budgets and build their managerial skills.”

Al-Mahaba, a Baghdad-based women’s radio station that has struggled to broadcast since their equipment was damaged in an explosion in 2005, received equipment from IWPR that enabled them to broadcast regularly and sign advertising deals with two major Iraqi companies as a result.

"Our audience has grown substantially since we received the UPS [battery] from IWPR, which solved our power outage problems. We can stay on air longer because we don’t have as many outages, which has encouraged more people to tune into our station," a station spokesperson said.

In addition to improving advertising, Al-Mahaba's editorial staff said they were using the computers IWPR provided to research stories online instead of relying only on local newspapers.

Baghdad’s Al-Adhwa newspaper also received computers, cameras, recording devices, an internet system, furniture and air-conditioners.

"The equipment has motivated the staff to work harder and perform better – to the extent that we are considering boosting our production from once a week to at least three times per week or daily," editor-in-chief Mohammad Jawad al-Dikheeli said.

Al-Sindbad radio station in Basra was able to launch new programmes with IWPR equipment, improving their ability to engage the public and compete with party-backed stations. The station received broadcasting equipment, computers and a battery that enables Al-Sindbad to broadcast continuously, despite frequent power cuts.

Since receiving IWPR’s assistance, guests on their shows have included Basra’s governor and a provincial council member, both of whom answered calls from members of the public.

"After receiving the equipment, the station launched several high-quality cultural and service programmes ... This was impossible before because we had poor equipment," Al-Sindbad radio station's management said in a statement.

Voice of Fallujah radio station was able to boost its on-air hours from eight to 17 hours a day with IWPR’s help, and is broadcasting without interruption. "The modern equipment provided by IWPR boosted staff morale. They are happy to be working with new tools," station manager Adil Eiz al-Deen said.

Farah Ali is IWPR Iraq’s editorial coordinator and translator.

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