Ten Iraqi journalists visited The Missourian the past week to discuss their country’s political problems, freedom of the press, the U.S. intervention and community journalism.
They visited Washington through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The World Affairs Council of St. Louis arranged the visit.
During their visit, the journalists, most of whom work for TV stations, learned about the demographics of Washington and the county and were briefed on The Missourian’s operation.
Missourian Publisher Bill Miller Sr. presented them with gifts and information about the area.
Miller also engaged the journalists in a discussion that delved into Iraq’s condition after the war and the perception of the United States in the Middle East.
Most of the journalists did not speak English, and communication with Miller was made possible through interpreters.
Many eye-opening details of the lives of Iraqi journalists were shared during the discussion, such as one woman’s account of being shot while covering a story.
She said she wants the United States to come back to Iraq and invade the country again, adding that many other dictators have arisen after the fall of Saddam Hussein. She said she wants the United States to return and correct mistakes.
There were mixed responses among the reporters in terms of whether they feel safer now compared to before the war. One said there are free elections in Iraq now, but another said the United States did not complete the mission.
Iraq’s political views and culture also present problems when it comes to the safety of that country, the journalists agreed.
One of the journalists said the Sunni denomination in Iraq is demanding amendments to the constitution to get fairer representation from the government.
Miller asked the journalists if the United States’ involvement in Iraq has left the country in a stable and more democratic position.
This drew varying responses with one reporter saying that Iraq was saved from the worst dictator in the Middle East.
Miller also asked the reporters if the media in Iraq are able to operate free of government control. Newspapers and media outlets in Iraq are owned by political parties and represent those interests, one reporter noted.
However, one reporter said if the country was still under Saddam Hussein’s control journalists would probably have their tongues cut out if they reported negatively about the government.
The government is not what scares journalists in Iraq now but rather it is terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida, that instill fear, according to one of the reporters.