UNESCO World Press Freedom Day in Iraq Hits its Mark

Baghdad, 3 May 2010 -- A call for a Freedom of Information Law was supported by a chorus of over 1000 journalists, reporters and bloggers from all over Iraq, in observance of World Press Freedom Day. Attendees included Mr. Mufid Al-Jazairy, former MP and former Chairman of the Media and Culture Commission on the Council of Representatives, Dr. Burhan Al-Shawi, Chief Executive Officer of the Communication and Media Commission, Mr. Muayad Al-Lami, Chairman of the Iraqi Journalist Syndicate, and Major General Qassim Atta, Spokesperson for Baghdad Operational Command.

By George Papagiannis
Baghdad, 3 May 2010 -- A call for a Freedom of Information Law was supported by a chorus of over 1000 journalists, reporters and bloggers from all over Iraq, in observance of World Press Freedom Day. Attendees included Mr. Mufid Al-Jazairy, former MP and former Chairman of the Media and Culture Commission on the Council of Representatives, Dr. Burhan Al-Shawi, Chief Executive Officer of the Communication and Media Commission, Mr. Muayad Al-Lami, Chairman of the Iraqi Journalist Syndicate, and Major General Qassim Atta, Spokesperson for Baghdad Operational Command.

A full day of activities centered on an open letter to the government requesting passage of a freedom of information law that meets international standards guaranteeing access to public documents. “Without this law there is no freedom for journalists in Iraq; this law gives the legal basis for the press to be the fourth estate, a true watchdog,” said Ziyad al-Ajili, the Head of the Journalism Freedoms Observatory, a leading press freedom advocacy group and one of the local organizers for the event.

Journalist Nadjha Kadhim, a member of Temkin – a coalition of press advocacy groups that has been working on a draft law for several months - read the open letter to the audience highlighting the five minimum standards for a quality freedom of information law which include: maximum and facilitated disclosure; protection of whistleblowers; limited scope of exceptions; independent appeals mechanisms; and strong proactive disclosure rules.

In a recorded address, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Ad Melkert, was unequivocal in stating the UN’s support for a law meeting international standards. “The United Nations would be very happy to support the Iraqi Parliament and Iraqi organizations to make this freedom of information law come true. This would be my wish for the year ahead,” said SRSG Melkert.

In addition to a number of speakers and two panel discussions, participants observed a minute of silence in remembrance of journalists and media workers who lost their lives while performing their duties.

For the first time in Baghdad, bloggers were invited to blog from the event thereby providing a near real-time report of the day’s activities. “As a blogger and new media professional, this was an important day because we met and connected as bloggers and I created a blog for this international day, and introduced the event of my country to the global community,” said Qais, a blogger from Kirkuk.

Celebrating the World Press Freedom Day in Baghdad was made possible through a joint effort of the UNESCO-Iraq Office, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNDP Iraq, international NGOs IREX and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and the Journalism Freedoms Observatory, a local NGO.

For more information, visit: http://freepressday.wordpress.com/

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 13:22

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