Monday, May 13, 2013

Free Press Unlimited and the Independent Media Center Kurdistan launched the StoryMaker project in Iraq last week with the kickoff of a one week training in Erbil. Eighteen participants from Bagdhad and parts of the Southern Iraq were attending the training. Due to the current conditions in Bagdhad, many of the journalists had to travel several hours and pass check points during their journey to Erbil but made it there safely. Free Press Unlimited's Bethel Tsegaye blogs about the journalists first reaction to the app.

By Bethel Tsegaye

IMCK Director, Julia Shaw gave a warm welcome to the participants followed by introductions of the trainers, staff and guests. After an introduction to the StoryMaker project and how it was born lead trainer, Khalid Suleiman started the morning talking about the importance of mobile phones for journalists and the role it plays in todays media. The participants were very engaged and asked important questions.

The participants in the training range from citizen journalists, bloggers, activists and traditional journalists. Most of them use mobile phones to produce stories and five of them have faced violence or arrest by police when caught filming or taking pictures. Journalists in the room agree that mobile phones are much easier and more discrete to use than cameras, especially when covering protests or the aftermath of horrific explosions that have been happening across Bagdhad and other parts of Iraq.

After 35 years of oppression and silence, authorities and even citizens in Iraq are not used to the concept of covering and sharing news. “There is a belief that when people are filming events they will destroy the country's image, reputation, economy. The police here are more afraid of a camera than a gun” , said Sam an employee of IMCK. There is a great need for raising awareness of the role that journalists play in Iraq.

As we are sitting in the training over 30 people were killed in Kirkuk, a neighboring city of Erbil in a series of bombings. It is frightening to know that this happens every day but even more frightening that it just happened no more than an hour and a half away from us. A few of the participants watched some of the footage of the incident on the local breaking news. The footage being played was taken by a mobile phone and we discussed the quality and how StoryMaker could help improve such important footage being captured on mobile phones every day.

After lunch we handed out smartphones to the participants and began the technical teaching. Co-trainer Munaf Ghanim  and Amar Waed walked the participants through the app and showed them how to create different trypes of stories. Munaf took example footage and gave really great direction. Most of the participants were active and and able to learn very quickly. Looking forward to seeing some of the assignments the participants will produce tomorrow!