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

Iraq: Sep ‘08

Ex-trainees say IWPR training has enabled them to get on in journalism.
Former IWPR trainees have said the Institute’s progamme has helped build their careers and raised journalistic standards in Iraq.

“The Institute was able to make a big change in Iraqi journalism … and brought it closer to international media [standards],” said Ziad Al-Ajili, a former IWPR trainee who founded the Journalists’ Freedom Observatory, JFO, along with IWPR-trained journalists. JFO is a leading independent Iraqi media watchdog in Baghdad.

Ajili, one of IWPR Iraq’s early trainees, said that IWPR Iraq has influenced Iraqi journalism by building a strong press corps and helping journalists to understand and defend their rights.

“The impact of the Institute has not only been about one specific course or article,” he said, “but its efforts to create a new Iraqi journalistic identity.”

IWPR Iraq has encouraged reporters to write about “daring and risky” topics that the Iraqi media is reluctant to address, said Ajili. Other journalists agreed.

“The subjects that IWPR has tackled like women’s rights, prostitution, homosexuality and begging have really impacted Iraq,” said Ghassan Ali, a former IWPR trainee who works as a correspondent for the news agency Iraq Now.

Ali said that IWPR Iraq played a huge role in launching his career and that of many other journalists.

“The Institute gave us the chance to start our career as journalists without restrictions,” he said. “A lot of IWPR’s [former trainees] are currently working in prominent news agencies, and it is all because of the Institute.”

“Most of the news agencies see IWPR trainees as the best [journalists] to work with, because of their strong skills and journalistic experience,” agreed Fida al-Safir, a Baghdad correspondent for the Iraqi radio station Al-Nas.

“IWPR is the only Institute that was able to create a new generation of journalists who have impacted both the social and political scenes in Iraq.”

Firas Al-Hamdani, a correspondent with the Al-Qala Media and Public Relations Institute in Kirkuk, said that IWPR enjoys a solid reputation among journalists in Kirkuk and throughout the country. Firas said that IWPR courses helped him launch his career.

"I was lucky enough that when IWPR was starting courses, I was beginning my career as a journalist,” he said. "The information I received from the Institute really helped me to build a strong foundation.”

IWPR has had a “very clear impact” on local journalism through its print, audio and broadcast courses, said Kameran Al-Najjar, a reporter with Nawa Radio station and Voices of Iraq news agency in Kirkuk.

“During my career as a journalist, I have never seen an Institute that is concerned with Iraqi daily life and events as is IWPR,” said Najjar.

IWPR Iraq’s articles and courses “are of great benefit to journalists, because without [IWPR] there wouldn’t have been such a great young generation of promising journalists”, he said.

Wrya Hama-Tahir, a long-time IWPR trainee, credited IWPR Iraq with “raising a very good generation of top journalists who came to the Institute as beginners and are now working in top international and Kurdish newspapers”.

Hama-Tahir began his career as a cub reporter at university and now works as a journalist at Hawlati, the first independent newspaper in Iraqi Kurdistan. He said IWPR’s training sessions helped propel him professionally.

“I’m deeply indebted to the Institute,” he said.

Samah Samad, an IWPR-journalist from Kirkuk, contributed to this report.

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