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

Media Influence Grows

New media outlets have sprung up in recent years, and women have won a significant role for themselves.
The media boom has given them a chance to show off their talents, while under Saddam Hussein’s rule they were confined to the role of housewife. Programmes made for and by women in the broadcast media have proved very successful.

Jinan al-Zirkani, the director of Mustaqbal radio in Basra, recalled how she began her career after the change of regime, editing the women’s page of the newspaper, founding al-Hiwar newspaper, which became the official outlet of the National Accord Movement, and working as director of the movement’s radio station.

A number of interviewees were asked by the Other Half radio show to talk about how women are portrayed in the Iraqi media. Reem Mukhlid, who works at al-Mustansariya University, says media vary in whether they paint a positive or negative image of women. Zahraa Abdulmahd, a psychologist, says the general image is positive. Dr Sahar Ahmed complains that the media only use women as an advertising tool, while Reem Adnan, also from al-Mustansarya University, said the picture is confused but mainly negative, because women are seen as being there for decorative purposes only.

Women’s media has seen an improvement in Iraqi Kurdistan, where reporter Koral Tofiq describes the situation in Sulaimaniyah. Mustafa Salih Kareem, a male journalist, talks about how the media have given women a higher profile.

Some believe that women’s media have played an influential role in changing laws relating to women, such as personal status legislation and the law on punishment for honour killings.

Rewas Faiq, a women’s rights activist and editor-in-chief of the Tawar Newspaper, believes that women’s media have not yet reached the point where they can change societal views.

Two female journalists, Raida Wazan and Atwar Bahjat, have been killed in Iraq. IWPR reporter Yasmin Ahmed in Mosul speaks about how female reporters can work given all the security threats.