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

Iraq: Oct '07

Important governance reporting lessons learnt at latest training seminars.
By Tiare Rath

Twenty journalists from eight Iraqi provinces attended two training courses in October which focused on the local governance reporting.

The courses, held in Sulaimaniyah, covered reporting and writing methods - including ways of obtaining information from difficult sources and techniques for properly structuring stories to ensure that information is presented clearly to the public.

Local governance reporting has been a major theme of IWPR’s work in Iraq this year. A series of special reports dealing with subjects ranging from electricity to education provision have been published on the IWPR website.

The body of work has offered an intriguing insight into the problems and challenges faced by the Iraqi civil servants attempting to deliver basic services to the population.

Students at the October training sessions discussed matters related to local governance, such as reconstruction projects, attempts at local democratic development and local corruption. They developed story ideas, and also held lively debates on the ethical issues faced by Iraqi journalists.

“I’ve really benefited from this course and the styles I’ve learned,” said one student from Mosul.

“I’m going to apply what I’ve learned in my work, especially because our profession [in Iraq] requires new knowledge and information.”

Another trainee journalist from Kirkuk said, “I have learned how to ask specific questions when I interview officials, and how to push them so that I can try to get as much information as possible."

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Crisis Report’s Kurdish editor Mariwan Hama-Saeed addressed a 100-person audience at the University of Colorado at Boulder about the risks journalists face in conflict areas.

Hama-Saeed represented IWPR on a four-person panel, which also included CNN and ABC News correspondents, for a discussion entitled, Surviving the Assignment: 21st Century War Reporting in the Age of Blackwater.

The editor, who has worked with IWPR for three years, detailed the risks that Iraqi journalists face.

Foreign correspondents, he said, “have to depend on the Iraqi reporters, and the Iraqi reporters can’t do their work perfectly because they’re faced with threats. I call them ‘invisible enemies’ because you don’t know who is your enemy or why you might be attacked”.

Yet many Iraqi journalists refuse to quit, he noted.

“They believe in the cause,” said Hama-Saeed. “And for many people, this is their profession, and they do whatever it takes [to keep working].”

IWPR does not publish the names of trainees for security reasons.

Tiare Rath is IWPR’s Middle East editor.

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