Improving the safety of Iraq’s independent media
Iraq has a particularly challenging environment for journalists, even when compared to the regional average. Reporters Without Borders consistently ranks the country at the lower end of its annual World Press Freedom Index, and media-workers often fall victim to harassment, intimidation and attacks. The project ‘Breaking the Silence Phase II’ aims to improve safety of journalists in Iraq.
UNESCO’s Director-General reported and condemned the killing of 198 media professionals in Iraq between 2006 and 2018. In the absence of judicial processes in cases of crimes against journalists, few journalists are able to still safely practice their profession. However, as government corruption, oil and gas sovereignty and Kurdish liberation remain centrally contested issues, access to reliable information may be more important than ever.
Together with our contracting partner, UNESCO, Free Press Unlimited aims to improve the conditions under which journalists in Iraq operate, both in the Federal Republic and in the Kurdish Republic of Iraq (KRI). Over the course of 16 months, Breaking the Silence Phase II will work to provide better protection and accountability when it comes to journalist safety. The project has a special focus on the most vulnerable populations, mainly women journalists. Therefore we aim to strengthen effective and inclusive human rights based national systems, that contribute to the protection of (women) journalists.
We will do this through collaboration with and training of five selected independent media organizations based in Iraq. Additionally, this project will rely on coordination with local actors and agencies, such as the High Judiciary Council, Special Investigative Unit (SIU) for attacks against journalists, the Ministry of Interior, the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), Ministry of Justice, the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, and Iraqi Human Rights Commission.
Gender, security and media
Women journalists and media professionals face many gender specific threats and barriers to receive protection, and therefore form a particularly vulnerable group. A recent study published by International Media Support (IMS) identified that women journalists face additional harassment for being women in a public role. A study done by UNESCO indicated that the Iraqi state has not developed competent institutions that can cope with the issue of harassment and abuse against women journalists, or against women in general.
Breaking the Silence Phase II seeks to assist women media professionals in Federal Iraq and the KRI through the development of an independent helpline to help take effective measures to increase their physical, digital and psycho-social safety. For this the technical infrastructure for the helpline, including phone services, secure hosting and social-media contact points needs to be designed and implemented.
Altogether, we hope to establish national mechanisms and enhance capacities of stakeholders to ensure the safety and protection of (women) journalists well beyond the duration of the project itself.