Rewarding Journalists For Bias? Iraqi Media Protest Over MPs’ Unfair Prize Giving
Recently the Iraqi Parliament decided to give out awards to journalists in the press corps in Baghdad. For the first time they gave out awards to five of the around 70 accredited journalists working the government beat.
However almost immediately the awards created an uproar, with a number of dissatisfied journalists holding a sit-in in Parliament’s press centre for more than an hour. Basically, they complained, the awards had been made as a result of each organisation’s sectarian allegiances rather than any journalistic merit.
Critics say that the media organizations that were honoured were only given prizes because of who owned them or what they stood for.
The prize winners were Iraqiyah, the TV channel that is part of the Shiite-Muslim-led Iraqi government’s public broadcaster, the Iraqi Media Network, Rudaw, the Iraqi Kurdish media organisation owned by the region’s ruling Barzani family, Al Sharqiya, the TV channel owned by Iraqi media tycoon Saad al-Bazzaz which is generally acknowledged as the voice of Sunni Muslim opinion in the country, and the Afaq TV channel, which is owned by the mainly Shiite Muslim Dawa political party and known to be closely affiliated to one of its leading members, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
There’s a long history of bias in the Iraqi media – although all kinds of media institutions flourished after 2003, many of them were funded by, or wholly owned by, political parties or owners with a political, sectarian or ethnic axe to grind.