Although there are media organisations in Iraq who pride themselves on balanced, unbiased coverage, they are far outnumbered by others who display their bias unashamedly or who are part of the so-called “shadow media”, who are less obvious about their unbalanced outlook but who clearly have red lines their reporters cannot cross.
One of the local journalists working in Iraq's Parliamentary press corps, Mahdi Karim, points out that it is important to honour Iraqi journalists. “But there were a lot of problems with the process,” he says. “Because decisions were not based on efficiency or professionalism, rather they were based on the desire to please the powerful and to cater to sectarian and ethnic biases.”
Another member of the Iraqi press gallery, Walid al-Sheikh, praised the sit-in, saying the prize giving was yet another indication of how the mentality of all Iraqis, and certainly of Iraqi politicians, had changed.
“The thinking and the political culture has been shaped by sectarian bias and now everyone simply accepts it,” argues al-Sheikh, who's been working the Parliamentary beat for the past four years. “Even journalism is viewed from this perspective. Experience, service and professionalism don't seem to count. That's why these rewards for the media were inherently sectarian. The sit-in was good because it highlighted this deterioration in political awareness.”
“But we cannot simply reward every journalist – that would make the whole process meaningless,” says Mohammed Abu Bakr, who heads the media relations department inside Parliament. “And we did base decisions on quite specific criteria.”