Rights TV Show Bolsters Iraqi Activists

Activists say IWPR Iraq human rights broadcast has helped raise awareness about abuses among decision-makers and the general public.

Rights TV Show Bolsters Iraqi Activists

Activists say IWPR Iraq human rights broadcast has helped raise awareness about abuses among decision-makers and the general public.

Thursday, 18 November, 2010

Prominent Iraqi activists and journalists say IWPR Iraq’s television reports have bolstered human rights campaign work and broadened media coverage of rights issues.

IWPR Iraq’s programme It’s Your Right has been shown in Arabic and Kurdish on three Iraqi satellite channels, reaching viewers nationwide, in the Middle East and as far away as Europe since 2009. The show tackles issues such as the rights of women, widows, labourers, internally displaced Iraqis as well as the importance of freedom of expression by highlighting human interest stories and asking tough questions of experts and government officials.

The programme stands out among other television news magazines in Iraq in its balanced and professional approach to highlighting the plight of marginalised Iraqis and raising awareness of often overlooked human rights issues, say civil society activists, politicians and journalists.

Hanna Edward, a leading Iraqi activist and head of the al-Amal NGO in Baghdad, said she was “deeply moved” by the programme’s human interest features. Edward, who was interviewed for an It’s Your Right episode about women and children, said she is using clips from the show in her human rights campaigning with senior government officials.

Edward said she shows the stories in her workshops “to reflect what is happening in real life, especially in terms of tackling violence against women. I’ve shown some of the video clips to officials. They are three to four minutes – short, but totally effective”.

It’s Your Right has also played an important role in educating citizens about human rights in Iraq, according to other experts featured in the programme.

Lawmaker Shatha al-Abusi, the former head of the parliament’s human rights committee, said that It’s Your Right delivered a strong message about subjects which are overshadowed in Iraq by constant political crises.

“Iraq is in dire need of bringing human rights issues to the forefront,” Abusi said. “There is a need to produce programmes like It’s Your Right to educate people. Politicians have neglected the human rights issues while forming the government. When a lobby is built to advocate for a certain issue, members of parliament will have to draft laws [to address these issues,] and your [programme] plays an essential role in this.”

Bushra al-Obeidi, a lawyer and law professor at Baghdad university, said the programme “exposed the shortcomings of human rights in Iraq. I think it is necessary to continue producing such programmes which raise awareness about the conditions of human rights”.

The editor-in-chief of one of IWPR Iraq’s local media partners, the Kurdish News Network, KNN, said he had initially decided to broadcast It’s Your Right due to IWPR’s reputation for practicing “balanced journalism and upholding professional standards”.

Hoshyar Abdulah Fatah, who also said his channel was considering the production of a similar programme devoted to human rights coverage, added, “IWPR is a trusted organisation in the region. I know I can broadcast IWPR’s programmes straight away and with confidence.”

Hawre Aziz of GKSat, another IWPR local media partner that broadcasts the episodes, said his satellite channel had reported on human rights topics in the past, “but [It’s Your Right] was different in that it covered more than one aspect of an issue … it was more comprehensive”.

Ataa Mohammad, head of the Kurdistan-based Civil Society Development NGO, said the programme drew attention not only to the plight of citizens but also held those in power accountable.

“I have received feedback about the programme from guests and the audience,” Atta said. “Everyone noted that the programme has given voice to some marginalised groups and communities. The same people were neglected by the government and sometimes by human rights NGOs.”

Mohammad Furat is IWPR Iraq’s local editor.

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