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

Iraq: Oct ‘08

IWPR Iraq trainees get to grips with investigative techniques to enable them to report governance issues more effectively.
By Roman Zagros
IWPR trained nearly 60 Iraqi journalists last month in investigative reporting skills with the aim of improving the media’s watchdog role on governance issues.

The trainees were divided into two groups – broadcast and print – and taught advanced reporting techniques as well as good governance principles at IWPR’s training facilities in Erbil and Sulaimainiyah. Two broadcast courses were taught in Sulaimaniyah and three print training sessions were held in Erbil.

IWPR trainers said good governance and investigative reporting were taught jointly because investigative reporters can promote good governance by acting as watchdogs.

The Iraqi media has mushroomed over the past few years but there’s little grasp of what investigative journalism entails nor its importance. For many trainees, who travelled to northern Iraq from various parts of the country, the course offered an introduction to this style of reporting.

Horen Gharib, an IWPR video trainer in Sulaimaniyah, said the trainees appeared passionate about learning the new skills and techniques.

Iman Husain, 39, a journalist from Babil working for Al-Sumariyah satellite TV, said she intends to send the trainers her stories both before and after the training session “to demonstrate the skills I acquired”.

Emtiaz Diab, a Geneva-based journalist and veteran of the BBC's Arabic service, was brought in to run the print courses in Erbil.

Diab said she put a strong emphasis on practical work, including critiquing and re-writing published stories. Students were also sent into Erbil to research short features about the city.

“This was particularly useful exercise,” Diab said. “The trainees had to use all the techniques they learned in the classroom.”

“The instructors were the best journalists from Iraq and overseas,” said Iyad al-Mamuri, a Baghdad-based reporter. “They delivered their ideas 100 per cent to the students using easy, user-friendly methods.

“I was only doing radio reports, but now I have learned how to do investigative reporting.”

At the end of the course, the trainees pitched story ideas for investigative reports at an editorial meeting and discussed more technical skills with the video trainers.

“The one-to-ones were really important to get the story lines right, discuss the frames and plan for the production stage,” Gharib said.

Back in their home towns and cities, the participants will continue to be overseen by IWPR trainers, who will provide them with feedback. The journalists have also been asked to produce online stories and video clips for IWPR’s website.

As well as their educational value, Sulaimaniyah and Erbil courses also gave the trainees a rare opportunity to network.

“It brought together reporters and journalists from different cities and towns of Iraq,” said trainee Ali Jawad, a reporter for Biladi TV in Baghdad. “This will help up when we go on assignments around the country.”

Roman Zagros is an IWPR Iraq editor.