Iraqi journalists regularly hold protests calling for greater freedom of speech [GALLO/GETTY]
Iraqi media has a long history of repression under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi media suffered relentless repression for 25 years under Saddam Hussein. According to a report from Reporters Without Borders titled The Iraqi Media: 25 years of relentless repression, Iraqi media used to be one of the freest in the Middle East through the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire and under the English monarchy. The radio stations and printed press played an active role in promoting Arab nationalist ideology. Iraqi media until the revolution in 1958 experienced freedom.
After the revolution Iraq was in constant political turmoil and violence. The press suffered greatly in this period of civil unrest. As the press shifted allegiance with each regime that took control such as the Islamist, the Democrats, the Kurds, the Ba'athists and the Communist the press freedom became more and more limited.
In the beginning control of the media was non-violent but by the 1970's that all changed for the worst.
"At the end of the 1970's, the methods used to control and intimidate journalists became extremely violent. Judicial harassment, arrest, threats, prolonged detentions and incidents of torture and executions increased dramatically.
By 1978 the Ba'athist party had control over the nation and its media. In July of 1979 Saddam Hussein would become president and rule until April 2003 and he was executed in December 2006. The media during Saddam's regime was state controlled and was a mouthpiece for the propaganda of Saddam and the Ba'athist party. During Saddam reign the Iraqi people were essentially cut off from the rest of the world only getting news that was approved by the state.
Three months after the overthrow of Saddam's regime by a US led invasion of Iraq the media has a new freedom but it is very fragile. In another report by Reporters without Borders titled The Iraqi media three months after the war: A new but fragile freedom,examines the state of the media in Iraq immediately following the invasion. Iraq like other nations who suddenly enjoy unprecedent freedom after the overthrow of a repressive regime need to figure out how to establish and sustain their media. The instability of the nation makes press freedom very precarious. In the report it describes the situation:
"But daily lawlessness and instability, the large amount of weaponry in people’s hands, squabbles between political groups and the US and British occupation mean complete freedom is not guaranteed for journalists, who are practising self-censorship. Criticism and different opinions can now be voiced however. The future of the Iraqi media is largely in the hands of the US-British Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and, to some extent, the Iraqi Transitional Governing Council appointed on 13 July."
Immediately after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein the Iraqi people were hungry for local and international news. There was a huge boom in newspaper publications and the sales of satellite dishes has increased.
Fast forward to 2010 and Iraqi media is trying to find its footing. Omar Chatirwala wrote an article for Aljazeera.net about how Iraqi media is facing serious struggles and is still trying to define itself. There are dozens of TV and radio stations and many more news publications circulating in Iraq. The media market in Iraq is described as follows by Chatriwala:
"Now that they have been guaranteed the rights to freedom of expression and press by the constitution, the Iraqi media market has arguably become unrivalled elsewhere in the region.
"The past ten years in Iraq have been marked by drastic changes in the press," Rawnaq Qassim, a reporter for the Arabic-language Free Iraq radio station, says on the sidelines of a major media event.
"We have witnessed radical, distinct changes and developments," she says. "Now we are running electronic newspapers, huge satellite TV channels, and news agencies, which have an enormous influence on Iraqi public opinion.
Much of Iraqi media is focused on political issues because much of its funding comes from political parties and the government. This causing the problem of bias media. Chariwala writes:
"As a result of the prominent political and government funding lavished on Iraqi media outlets, the industry here has produced mixed standards of journalism at best, and sometimes, even flagrant bias."
The Iraqi are still optimistic and hopeful about the future of Iraqi media. In the article an Iraqi journalist Ahmed Rushdi describes the Iraqi hope for the future media:
The Iraqis have a characteristic feature – they are always looking for success, success ... [through] competition," he says.
And that competition, he hopes, will help the average citizen approach "a good media – a good, accessible media for normal [Iraqis]".