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

Iraq: Sept' 07

Special report praised by Council on Foreign Relations and IWPR training contributes to boosting Kurdish magazine’s circulation.

IWPR’s recent series of special reports have shed light on under-reported areas of the Iraqi conflict, according to activists and journalists. 

The special reports have focused on major issues such as health, security, oil and education. A wide network of experienced IWPR correspondents have covered important and often sensitive issues in places like Karbala, Basra and Kirkuk, where few journalists dare to work these days. 

The story “Mosul's Christian Community Dwindles” focused on the displacement of the city’s Christian families. Michael Youash, director of the Washington-based Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, which advocates for minorities in Iraq, said IWPR’s coverage was superior to stories in the major news media. IWPR explained the situation for Christians in Mosul clearly and with depth, he said, “proving that a complicated issue could be covered well”.

“It was a very solid piece and very helpful to shedding light on the situation,” said Youash. “It was excellent.”

Youash has used IWPR to help educate members of congress and policy-makers about the problems facing Christians in Mosul and Nineweh province. IWPR reporter Sahar al-Haideri reported on the issue in her home city of Mosul, where she was murdered last summer.

“Checkpoints: Baghdad's Russian Roulette,” written by a team of IWPR reporters in the capital, was named a “must-read” story by the Council on Foreign Relations, a prominent think tank. The story “gives an Iraqi insider’s view of life in Baghdad where giving the wrong kind of name at a checkpoint can mean death”, the organisation wrote on its website.

IWPR Iraq has an extensive network of reporters across the country - a rarity for international news organisations in Iraq today. IWPR’s reporters are regularly used as stringers for other news organisations, both internationally and within Iraq.

“Smuggling Thieves in Basra” detailed how oil smuggling in the oil-rich province of Basra. Basra “is going underreported” said Omar Anwar, an Iraqi journalist. Anwar is pursuing stories in Basra and plans to contact IWPR reporters to help with research.

Basra’s oil smuggling “is very significant”, said Anwar.  “It’s an important story because it portrays how Iraq’s wealth is being abused.”

IWPR’s stories on the health crisis addressed several major health issues in Iraq, including the cholera outbreak in northern Iraq - which has since spread to several other provinces - and how the shortage of doctors and medicine is making it impossible to provide proper healthcare.

“Militias Jeopardise New Basra Hospital” detailed the struggle to build a children’s hospital and teaching facility in the southern city of Basra, where threats by militias have hindered reconstruction efforts. In addition to being carried in the Iraqi and Turkish media, the story was published in several major US newspapers, including the Boston Herald and the Honolulu Advertiser. All of IWPR Iraq’s health stories were also published by the UN’s ReliefWeb, a humanitarian news website.

An Iraqi Kurdish newspaper, Rozhnama, also featured a story on IWPR’s influence on Iraqi Kurdish media in September. Ahmaed Meera, editor-in-chief of Livin, a respectable independent magazine in Kurdistan, said that prior to his staff being trained by IWPR the title’s circulation was 2,000. The reporters and editors have improved significantly, he said, and circulation is now 11,000.

"The impact of IWPR’s trainings has been stronger than academic media studies at the universities and institutes in Kurdistan," he said.

Tiare Rath is IWPR’s Middle East editor.

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