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 Iraqi Kurdistan: Land of 1 Million Journalist  

 Opinion — Analysis 
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Iraqi Kurdistan: Land of 1 Million Journalist  31.5.2010 
By Mariwan Faydullah Salihi, for 

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May 31, 2010

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Many people have probably noticed it: We have a lot of 'journalists' and writers in Iraq's Kurdistan Region these days, spreading their 'articles,' 'news,' and 'views' in hundreds of Kurdish newspapers, magazines and websites. I use quotation marks on the words journalists and news to highlight that I don't define them as real journalists and news. Kurdish media is currently very chaotic and needs dire attention to keep it well-organized.

These days, anyone owning a computer or, a pen and paper, has become a journalist or writer in Kurdistan Region…and there are probably a million of them in this part of the world. What's more shocking, is the fact that these so called journalists can easily place their so called articles,                             

Mariwan Faydullah Salihi
news and views (mostly lies, rumors, gossips, and hate-speeches against individuals or groups) in media outlets throughout Kurdistan – we have hundreds of newspapers, magazines and websites here.

How could this happen so easily? Well, there are several factors. These are the main:

One: a certain media outlet (that includes the owner and editor-in-chief) likes to have as much readers as possible, and keeping that in place or make the numbers grow, they need provocations and pre-fabricated stories. Gossips, rumors, lies, hate-speeches against well-known personalities and groups are a must. But their 'menu's' also include dishonoring Kurdish women by relating them to prostitution, alcohol consumption and sex (taboos in the highly conservative and tribal Kurdish society) – which in fact only leads in the increase of 'honor killings' against them, instead of fixing the problem. Whoever writes about these subjects, is welcome in these media outlets.

Two: and then there are the 'opposition' or 'independent' outlets, which concentrate heavily on spreading anything that is anti-government and against certain politicians in the government and political parties. Anyone who wants to write about these 'hot' topics, is again welcome doing so. Unfortunately, until now there's no such thing as real independent media outlets in Kurdistan Region; every one of them is somehow connected to a certain group with a certain agenda.

Three: a new trend in some Kurdish media outlets, is the 'import' of foreign employees (from neighboring countries and increasingly also, Westerners). Some of these foreign 'journalists' or 'editors' are not even journalists or editors back in their own countries – some of them include students! The demand for English writers in Kurdistan Region is increasing day after day, so anyone who speaks 'some' English is appreciated here. One editor-in-chief of a renowned Erbil-based newspaper once told me that "having a blonde, Western employee is very important, because high officials in Kurdistan do not easily give interviews and access to local journalists." He said to me that he knew his foreign 'journalist' was "not professional" but needed him to do the "tough" interviews – despite the fact that many people have denounced his bad quality writings and misinterpretation of certain issues. Recently, one foreign intellectual even called this journalist "unprofessional" and talked about his "poor command of the English language."

What worries me most is that foreigners enjoy a much higher salary than locals do in our own media outlets.

I am not against foreign journalists in Kurdistan, but they should never be employed on the expenses of other professional local journalists or reporters. They should be hired only in the case when there are no locals available in the required fields. Our youth, today, need employment more than any period in history.

Four: the rarity of educated journalists and editors-in-chief is another dilemma we're facing in Kurdistan. The overwhelming majority of journalists in Kurdistan don't have any journalistic backgrounds or never had education in the field of journalism or media. Most of them, in fact, do not know the guidelines of journalistic writings or ethics of journalism. Our readers have to 'learn,' 'educate,' and 'read' topics written by these so called journalists. The local English-writing journalists here have mostly studied English Literature at the local universities – a rather odd phenomena among journalists in Kurdistan! Some journalists I've met here who are graduates from the English Language Department do not even speak English! One of them can only say a few words and sentences, despite the fact that he obtained a Bachelor's degree at one of the prestigious universities here.

The issues of journalism in Kurdistan are endless, meaning quick solutions are required to save the local media. I always say that having a few real professional newspapers and magazines are better than having hundreds of them who do not provide any valuable knowledge or information.

What we really need in Kurdistan is having a more strict entry to the field of journalism. In other words, we should have fixed standards, including: people with no or few knowledge of journalism, including its skills, should not be allowed to work or write as journalists. The ones who do want to stay as journalists, those who don't have proper education or experience in the field, need courses and schooling in journalism before they continue their writings. These measures can solve many issues today journalists are facing, including low salaries. Journalists in Kurdistan receive extremely low wages, perhaps because of the massive number of unprofessional journalists working in this field today – and who obviously oversaturated the local media 'market' in Kurdistan,
www.ekurd.netand are ruining the 'business' for other skilled journalists.
The Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate and other authorities can create solutions, because it's in the interest of other professional journalists and more certainly in the interest of the future of Kurdish journalism, to solve these existing problems. Despite the fact of more than one century of Kurdish journalism, our media is probably the weakest and most unprofessional in the entire region – and I don't say this with a smile.

Our journalists think that when they're writing anti-government pieces, they are good and courageous writers. A good journalist is someone who can investigate crimes and fixes or highlights major social problems. A good journalist is someone who sticks to facts and ethics, and uses reliable sources. "Always check, check and check…before you write or publish any story," is something I have learned and proud to use in my everyday-writings.

Mariwan Faydullah Salihi, journalist at Kurdish Globe and Rudaw in Erbil/Iraqi Kurdistan and regular contributing writer. You may reach the author via email at: mariwan.journalist (at)

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