Iraq: Article 19 report on women and the media in Iraq

The report finds that Iraqi women are now facing new fundamentalist values that did not exist in their country before.
Those working in the media are targeted as journalists but also as women, said Hoda Rouhana, MENA Programme Officer at human rights organisation Article 19 to APN.
The report is the result of a two-day workshop held in March 2007 in Amman, Jordan, and attended by both senior and junior journalists from Iraq. Among the issues raised were the overall situation of freedom of expression in the country; the status of women; the threats and attacks on the media; and gender-sensitive reporting on sexual violence in the current Iraqi context.

The coverage of cases of sexual violence is one of the main sensitive task in Iraq today, the report reveals. The politicisation of the cases of sexual violence against women, the threat on journalists who cover issues of violence from extremist groups are among the issues which raise concerns. One of the participants in the workshop mentioned the difficulty to cover mutaa (or temporary) marriages since many officials were involved in this type of union.

The report also provides cases of bad or good reporting on women's issues. For example, Iraqi media tend to interview women parliamentarians about women's issues only. Women are very rarely asked to comment on political topics. The use of stereotypes seems to be common in the Iraqi press which generally relegates stories regarding women's issues to «entertainment and varieties» pages.

To address women and media in Iraq, a number of general recommendations were agreed upon, among which the most important were:

- Share experiences and strategies with women journalists from the rest of the Middle East region especially with those from countries that experienced conflict and war, such as Palestine, Lebanon and Algeria.
- Establish a centre for Iraqi women journalists to both train and protect women journalists
- The Iraqi media must address the recent rise in Female Genital Mutilation, the burning of women and the increase of widows
- Conduct a study on Iraqi journalists who have been threatened or killed in order to use it to develop guidelines for protecting journalists in Iraq