Since the beginning of 2017 Wadi cooperates with the newsportal ‘KirkukNow’ whose editorial office is located inside the facilities of Wadi in Suleymaniah. The goal of KirkukNow is especially the promotion of an independent and democratic public sphere.
KirkukNow: Independent media in Iraq’s disputed territories
This cooperation is part of our support of different media projects committing to the concept of ‘citizen journalism’. Wadi also works together with different radio stations run by women and youths as Radio Dange Nwe in Halabja.
In North Iraq there are so called ‘disputed territories’ which are unstable and uncertain. One of the disputed territories is Kirkuk province, where online independent media agency KirkukNow aims to provide reliable information to people living in these regions. Independent media, providing reliable information, is invaluable to efforts towards building a stable society in these diverse areas.
Independent media, providing reliable information, is invaluable to efforts towards building a stable society in these diverse areas.
In 2011, the independent online media agency KirkukNow was established by the Independent Media Centre Kurdistan; a Free Press Unlimited partner. They started as a news organisation that provides information to the people of Kirkuk province, one of the disputed territories in Northern Iraq. With the help of Free Press Unlimited they have relaunched their website to focus on providing unbiased, independent news to all of the disputed territories.
Objective information for the disputed territories
In a country where the press freedom is under pressure, KirkukNow has renewed its focus on providing independent and reliable information to citizens of all the disputed territories. KirkukNow posts articles relevant to the disputed territories in the three main languages of the region: Kurdish, Turkmen and Arabic. Combining this inclusive approach with an active social media presence, on both Facebook and Twitter, KirkukNow reaches a broader audience.
Hereinafter, the chief editor Salam Omer reports about the work and goals of KirkukNow:
KirkukNow – Stronger Now
I can always remember the message a reader sent us commenting, “How can you do this?” He meant, not surprisingly, to cast doubt on the idea of practicing professional and unbiased journalism in a volatile political, security and economic atmosphere of Iraq, and even worse, in the country’s “disputed territories”. I know for sure that nothing is guaranteed where we work, nothing but our persistent to serve our audiences void of difference.
We’ve come a long way, facing challenges and raising the bar to a new level, with the help of our partners. KirkukNow has been labeled as a professional media outlet by independent observers, winning journalism awards, forming broader alliances, and earning more partners. Above all, we have more readers and are more influential.
The main challenge for us consists of sticking to our principles and reaching a broader audience at the same time; yet we have managed to work in a way that it impacts the lives of people and the attitude of officials. Our coverage is no longer gone unheeded.
On April11th, 2017, KirkukNow published an investigative report on hundreds of people fleeing from the Islamic State (ISIS) in Hawija, while barred from entering Kirkuk. Their lives were in danger, and a source told KirkukNow that “a child [among them] died in hunger.” At first, the local officials denied it. Later, rights organizations responded, and Baghdad officials addressed the issue. It ended with opening the door to the feeling internally displaced people from Hawija. We could say that we took part in protecting the lives of ordinary citizens.
On May8th 2018, KirkuNow, as a partner of Free Press United (FPU) took part in a rights campaign titled (Men4Women) organized in eleven countries, aimed at raising awareness about women’s rights in the society. Our campaign soon went viral, a number of organisations and other people followed suit with dozens of men sending their photos to KirkukNow or publishing them to support the campaign.
Thanks to our main partner FPU, and WADI as well which assisted KirkukNow early in 2017 to broaden its horizons of work, we were soon able to form close partnerships with more media and civil society organisations. Our stronger network has served our readers and the cause of independent journalism in Iraq, particularly “the disputed territories”.
We’ve partnered with the Hivos in a project tilted (Giving Voice to the IDPs) to inform the internally displaced people of the significance of political participation especially in the provincial and national election. The Iraqi Electoral Body officials later said it was the only beneficial awareness-rasing project in 2018 to the IDPs. KirkukNow produced 50 in-depth reports and five TV spots, read and watched by a few million through local TV channels throughout the country.
The last, but not least is our partnership with Deutsche Welle, which is part of expanding our project to reach more readers. We have agreed to use their experience to serve our readers in the local languages such as Arabic, Kurdish, or Turkmen.
At the beginning of an independent monitoring report on KirkukNow which was requested by our main partner (FPU) reads,” The findings of this monitoring report, reveal the website’s strong commitment to the basic principles of journalism and its mission statement – chief among them objectivity and neutrality”. According to the report, KirkukNow has a strong coverage devoid of bias or leaning to one community at the expense of another. We continuously receive positive feedback from both our audience and journalists; we feel appreciated and yet firmly committed to the strategy of the website.
As a gesture to our professionalism, two investigative reports of KirkukNow won the first and third awards of a competition for the best reporting on human rights abuses in Kurdistan Region and wider northern Iraq in 2017; 18 renowned media institutions including TV, Print and Online took part in the event.
On July21 2018, our managing editor Shorsh Khalid won the Soran Mama Hama prize for the freedom of journalism. The prize was awarded in a public ceremony, and Khalid was one of the three persons to be awarded this year. Khalid has a main role in managing the newsroom and day-to-day work of KirkukNow.
What comes next?
We are Very hopeful. We have more opportunities to expand our work, however many obstacles ahead. Shortly, we intend to renew our website, re-write our outlet’s business strategy and endeavor to reach as many readers as possible across “disputed territories”.
We want to take it further, yet we are stuck with our motto “From People To People”.