“Journalists in Iraq face a double threat, from armed gangs gunning them down and prosecutors charging them, all because of what they write. The recent spate of assassinations of journalists has had a chilling effect on journalists, who risk being prosecuted by the very authorities that are supposed to protect them.” -Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director (Human Rights Watch, 2013)
Iraq is listed as number one on the Impunity Index by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, which has linked 93 unsolved murders of journalists. Clearly, the dangers of working as a journalist in Iraq were illustrated by Sarah Leah Whitson who showed that both prosecution and danger comes from authorities and gangs alike. If a journalist is murdered, Iraq has the worst conviction rate out of all countries. The danger of journalism also effects citizen journalists, such as Al Hamdani. Al Hamdani, was a citizen journalist within Iraq stopped reporting after a sticky bomb on his car exploded near him.
Authorities in Iraq have used intimidation tactics such as citing license infringement, threats, and imprisonment for negative coverage of events. Additionally, a proposed cybercrime bill is targeting journalists as it could imprison anyone who harms the reputation of the country or publishes harsh or misleading facts as CPJ reports.
As I’ve mentioned in an early post, journalists also face the threat of censorship and a lack of access to internet as the Iraqi minister of Telecommunications has stopped internet or enforced blackouts of internet at certain times. The ministry has claimed that this is to thwart efforts by radical groups such as ISIS from encouraging more supporters to join them, and also to prevent more videos, such as those of journalists beheadings, from being posted.
Social media plays a crucial role in any citizen journalists mode of publication. Social media sites such as facebook and twitter are frequent mediums for publishing reports. Many citizen journalists will use video on whatever is available, such as their cellphones to film recent events. Cellphones and other cameras can also capture occurrences as well.
In addition to Al Hamdani, Michael Yon (his photo, Little Girl, was covered here) is listed as a prominent citizen journalist in Iraq by NPR. He has been embedded with American troops in Iraq for several years and covers a variety of topics such as bio-surveillance, events in Thailand, and situations in Burma; however, he focuses mostly on events in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of his funding comes from his supporters, who contribute to his writing through a pay account.