Lies, Lies And Crazy Rumours: What Iraqis Believe About the USA
Iraq’s security crisis has caused local media to take sides more than ever. Amid the misinformation are conspiracy theories about how the US is secretly on the extremists’ side. Problem is, a lot of Iraqis believe the stories.
In the battles for hearts and minds playing out in the popular Iraqi media, it feels as though one side is winning. The way that the fighting against the extremist group known as the Islamic State is being covered is certainly not impartial.
At best, unbalanced stories that praise Iraq’s Shiite Muslim fighters are being published in the hundreds of newspapers, satellite TV channels and radio stations owned by Shiite Muslim political parties in Iraq. At worst, rumours pushed by pro-Iranian and pro-Shiite-militia are being propagated.
Meanwhile even the more independent media outlets feel as though they cannot publish any news that might do harm to the efforts to push the Islamic State, or IS, group out of the country – including efforts by the unofficial Shiite Muslim militias, mostly made up of volunteers.
The militias, who are fighting the IS group, which bases their ideology in Sunni Muslim beliefs, alongside the regular Iraqi army have been successful in their campaign – they recently retook the city of Tikrit from the IS fighters – but they have also been accused of committing crimes against the Sunni Muslim population.
In general there seems to be a movement in the local media that downplays the importance of the regular Iraqi army and police in the fight and that emphasises the role of Shiite Muslim militias. Last year in June when the security crisis first began, the Iraqi government, via its Communications and Media Commission, introduced new media regulations to regulate local press during the security conflict.
As Human Rights Watch reported back then, “the guidelines unjustifiably restrict freedom of the press, including by requiring pro-governmental coverage”.