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

Iraq: Jan ‘09

Scores of journalists trained to enable them to cover regional ballot.
More than 200 journalists from central and southern Iraq were trained to cover the January 31 provincial council elections.

The Institute’s training facilities in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah in northern Iraq hosted trainees throughout January, many of them reporters and editors from Radio Nawa and Voices of Iraq, two reputable news organisations that partnered with IWPR to provide in-depth election coverage.

Reporters were shown how to write features, news analysis, breaking news and news briefs, while editors were trained how to hone and rework copy. Radio journalists were also given specific technical instruction.

The reporters contributed to IWPR’s election-focused newspaper, Metro, and Metro Iraq Radio, an hour-long radio show that was also launched for the elections.

Metro, published in Arabic and Kurdish, presented news reports, analyses, comment and photojournalism in a 16-page tabloid format. It provided an opportunity for the journalists and editors to put into practice the lessons they learned during the training sessions. Twenty editions of the free-circulation newspaper were produced during the election period.

Hiwa Osman, IWPR Iraq country director, said the Metro project was conceived “to provide the public with information that is useful, unbiased and objective”.

“Metro is an attempt to bring together Iraqi journalists trained by IWPR so that they can produce a daily publication and a radio show with the highest possible standards,” he said.

IWPR teamed up with Voices of Iraq and Radio Nawa, which “have a vast network of reporters around the country and value objectivity and impartiality”, Osman added.

Editors praised IWPR for improving their reporters’ skills, and trainees said they benefited from IWPR’s expertise.

Kawthar Abdulameer, a reporter with Voices of Iraq who trained with IWPR, said he benefited from the guidance offered by IWPR trainers.

He said hashing out story ideas and story development with editors “was very useful”.

Iraqi provincial council elections were held in 14 out of the 18 governorates in the country. The three Kurdish provinces and the disputed oil-rich province of Kirkuk did not participate.

A provincial election is scheduled for mid-May in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Kurdish version of Metro was created to give Kurdish readers a daily view of election news across Iraq.

“It is true that elections were not held in Kurdistan region, but the events in the rest of Iraq have a direct impact on the region,” said Twana Osman, an IWPR Kurdish editor in the north.

Metro Iraq Radio was broadcast in Arabic on Radio Nawa, combining radio reports, media monitoring, interviews and features with listener phone-ins. The show featured a different Iraqi city each day to shed light on election developments there.

“Now that the reporters have been able to practice what they’ve been taught, there is a tremendous difference in their reporting skills,” said Emtiaz Diab, director of Metro Iraq radio and a BBC Arabic service veteran.

IWPR created the special election programme “as a tool for democratic development”, said Ammar al-Shahbander, IWPR Iraq’s chief of party and a supervisor of Metro. “Because elections are usually a very important part of the democratic process, we have tried to support the election process in Iraq.”

Hogar Hassan is an IWPR local editor in Erbil.

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