The Legal Enabling Environment for Independent Media in Iraq

Over 50 people attended CIMA/NED’s event on the Legal Enabling Environment for Independent Media in Iraq. As a 2011 CIMA report, Iraq’s News Media After Saddam: Liberation, Repression, and Future Prospects, after the removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq’s tightly controlled state-run media was transformed into one of the most diverse and unfettered press environments in the region. Respect for basic human rights and freedoms in Iraq also improved, particularly with the adoption of a new constitution in 2005, which contains generally sound rights guarantees. Since then, however, the Iraqi government has adopted or proposed legislation limiting these rights, which violates basic constitutional and international human rights standards. According to a new report commissioned for IREX by the Centre for Law and Democracy, Freedoms in Iraq: An Increasingly Repressive Legal Net, the government has introduced a number of legislative items relating to freedoms of expression and assembly. Of these proposed items, the Journalists’ Rights Law, enacted in August 2011, contains problematic articles that create greater government control mechanisms, restrict journalists’ independence, and limit who may practice journalism. Panelists discussed the legal enabling environment for press freedom in Iraq as well as other challenges to Iraq’s nascent independent media in the wake of the U.S. military and donor drawdown.

Click here to see research resources from NED’s Democracy Resource Center.

Click here to read a summary of the event.

The Center for International Media Assistance and the Middle East and North Africa Program

at the National Endowment for Democracy present a roundtable discussion on

The Legal Enabling Environment

for Independent Media in Iraq


Asos Hardi

Awene Press & Publishing Company

Oday Hatem (via Skype from Baghdad)

Society for Defending Press Freedom

Lisa Kovack


Andrea Lemieux

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Moderated by:

Rahman Aljebouri

National Endowment for Democracy

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

About the speakers:

Asos Hardi is the general director of Awene Press & Publishing Company and a board member of the Independent Media Centre in Kurdistan. He is also a member of the advisory committee for the Middle East/North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. Hardi was the founder and editor-in-chief of Awene, an independent Kurdish newspaper and magazine, from 2006-2008. In 2000, he launched Hawlati, the first independent newspaper in Iraqi Kurdistan, of which he was editor-in-chief until 2005. Prior to his work in journalism, he was an engineer with the Sulaimaniyha Directorate for Reconstruction and Development. A winner of the 2009 Gibran Tueni Award for Freedom of Speech and Free Press by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, Hardi has been the victim of violent attacks for his work as a journalist, as well as his colleagues from Awene.

Oday Hatem is an Iraqi journalist and president of the Society for Defending Press Freedom organization, a NED grantee advocating for freedom of expression and media in Iraq. Under Hussein’s rule, Hatem was arrested and tortured for publishing articles against the regime. He continues to be a vocal voice against the Iraqi government to defend freedom of expression, including a lawsuit before the Iraqi Federal Court to challenge the Journalists’ Rights Law as unconstitutional. Since 2003, Hatem has worked with Iraqi and Arab media institutions, and has written numerous articles published by prominent Arabic newspapers. A recipient of the 2009 French Medal for Freedom of Expression and Human Rights Defenders, he continues his work in the face of threats against him and his family.

Lisa Kovack is a program officer for IREX’s media development division, where she manages media development programs in the Middle East. She coordinates programs across Iraq, including advocacy and media law reform efforts through support for legislative drafting processes, Iraqi media NGOs and associations, and coalitions of media freedom advocates. Kovack is experienced in press freedom issues and the state of media development in the Middle East and North Africa. She holds a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Andrea Lemieux is a program implementation coordinator for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, where she manages the organization’s U.S.-funded programs. Over the past eight years, she has developed and managed media development projects funded privately and by the U.S. government in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Lemieux specializes in project assessment and monitoring and evaluation based on lessons learned from previous projects; developing complex financial tracking systems tailored for individual project needs; and providing onsite subgrant management and compliance training to field staff.

About the moderator:

Rahman Aljebouri is a senior program officer for the Middle East and North Africa program at NED, where he supports capacity building efforts that help local civil society institutions advance democracy. Before joining NED, Rahman served as director of the civil society and election program for the National Democratic Institute, then later as its deputy country director from 2003- 2007 in his native Iraq. There, he provided training to civic and political party activists.