Toward an Understanding of Media Policy and Media Systems in Iraq: A Foreword and Two Reports

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Griffin, Douglas
Al-Marashi, Ibrahim

In the avalanche of analyses about what went wrong in Iraq, one area should be of particular interest to communications scholars: the development of a media system in Iraq. The emerging media system incorporates many significant strands: the conflict-related and post-conflict actions concerning media policy, the considerable growth of faction-related and entrepreneurial broadcasters after the conflict, the efforts by interests in the region (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and others) to affect the media environment, interventions by the United States and other Western countries, and their complex and often inept media-related reconstruction initiatives, the effort of non-government organizations (NGOs) to repeat or adopt practices from other conflict zones. There's a tendency in the communications studies literature to be concerned with particular U.S.-centric frames of discussion: access by Western journalists to information, depiction of the United States on Al-Jazeera and other satellite broadcasters, the combination of media and Islam as a mode of altering general public attitudes. I focus here — as an introduction to the two accompanying papers — on the emerging structure of media or media influences domestically in Iraq to understand the influence of the successor to Saddam's state television, the relationship between external state-sponsored influences, and pluralism within, and what consequence "media policy" or subsidy and private or party patronage has had on media institutions there. Finally, it will become increasingly important to understand the relationship between these media institutions and the actuality of continuing conflict and search for political solutions within Iraq. This "Occasional Paper" includes two reports. The first is a paper written by Ibrahim Al-Marashi, one of the few scholars systematically tracking media developments within Iraq. Dr. Al-Marashi was a Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 and has, for the last year, been an Open Society Institute (OSI) Policy Scholar at the Center for Policy Studies at Central European University in Budapest. He has recently joined the faculty at Koç University in Istanbul. The second was commissioned by the Republic of Iraq Communications and Media Commission (CMC), the agency established first under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) then maintained by the Iraqi governing authorities, and presented at a conference at UNESCO in January 2007. The report is the result of a contract between the CMC and the Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research in London.

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