Media to watch over democracy in Iraq

— by AP Reporters

Arab and international media experts urged donor countries to provide stronger support to create new broadcasting services in Iraq.

“Democracy in Iraq will go nowhere unless there is a strong independent media (playing) the role of watchdog,” said George Papagiannis, director of Internews, a U.S.-based media studies organisation.

The organisation, along with several other groups, issued a proposal detailing plans for Iraq to create public service broadcasters to serve the country’s various ethnic and religious groups.

Under the plan, Iraq would also set up an interim body to monitor licensing and press freedom. Authors of the text, prepared over the past two months, said the project had received backing of the U.S. Departments of State and Defence.

They met at this seaside resort near Athens to discuss the text with Arab media professionals.

The 85-page draft provides a proposed legal framework, regulatory structures, training, and interim mechanisms aimed at building an independent Iraqi media.

Reaction was mixed. “This document is excellent ... It should get the backing of international non-governmental organisations,” said Said Essoulami, executive director of the London-based Centre for Media Freedom, Middle East and North Africa.

Critics said independent media cannot thrive while Iraq remains under military occupation.

“Reform is not easy,” said Magda Abu-Fadil, director of Institute for Professional Journalists at the Lebanese American University.

“I know a lot of Iraqis are pleased Saddam Hussein has been lifted off their shoulders, but at what cost?”

Source: PA Mediapoint - June 6, 2003

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