Friday, April 10, 2020
In north Iraq’s disputed territories, false news about COVID-19 is spreading quickly. Our partner KirkukNow has joined forces with other media organisations in the region to provide reliable information about the outbreak.

Iraq’s disputed territories encompass four provinces in the country’s north. The region borders Iran, making it vulnerable to an outbreak of COVID-19. KirkukNow is collaborating with local news organisations to ensure reliable information across the territories.

“We exchange information so we can more easily track what is happening in each province,” says KirkukNow editor-in-chief Salam Omer. This is all the more important because reporters can less easily travel due to local measures aimed at halting COVID-19. Omer: “It’s very difficult for journalists to move around. Each province has its own set of rules. In some areas they need as much as three documents to be allowed outside.”

Verifying false news

Official information about COVID-19 is published by multiple local and federal authorities. Decades of regional instability has weakened them and has led to distrust among the local population.

“People do not receive enough information, so they more easily believe false news or unreliable information,” says KirkukNow editor-in-chief Salam Omer. Since COVID-19 arrived in Iraq, KirkukNow have tried to stem the flow of misinformation by publishing a series of articles on how to verify news. The articles are distributed in the three locally spoken languages: Arabic, Kurdish and Turkmen. “We’ve received very good feedback and they’ve even been republished by some media houses in Baghdad,” Omer says.

KirkukNow is also gathering information about COVID-19 from the different authorities in Iraq, and putting out clear reports about the actual status of the virus. This provides a counterweight to false news and makes KirkukNow a major source of reliable information in the region.

KirkukNow has been a partner of Free Press Unlimited since 2011. During the pandemic, we are supporting their reporters with protection packages that include face masks, antibacterial gel and surgical gloves.

Photo: Hawkar Mustafa/Metrography

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Podcast: Together for reliable information

Episode #4: Journalism during COVID-19 in the MENA region. As a part of the campaign ‘Together for reliable information’ we are producing a series of podcasts to highlight the inspiring initiatives from our partners all over the world to keep bringing reliable information to the public. In every podcast one of our programme coordinators will talk about the latest news from our partners on the frontline. In this podcast we speak with Bart, Programme Coordinator of the MENA region at Free Press Unlimited. He talks about the situation in Middle Eastern and Northern African countries, and how journalists keep reporting during difficult circumstances.