Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat -The Director of the Iraqi Media Network, Habib Mohammed Hadi al Sadr accused foreign companies that oversaw the network of wasting large sums of money and of expecting the Iraqi media to fail. Despite the difficulties, the network has prospered after it came under Iraqi control.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al Awsat, al Sadr revealed that after the network was handed back to Iraq in April 2004, Iraqi media professionals faced “a number of technical and financial difficulties. But in a short period of time, we were able to overcome these problems through discussion and planning and personal effort.” He added, “The foreign companies who managed the network for a considerable time did not invest in the network or even develop it, at least technically.” As an example, al Sadr spoke so "The Iraqi satellite station which used to broadcast through one satellite but is now on air through five satellites and available 24 hours a day”. As for the financial side, he revealed, “Al Sabah newspaper was losing over 170 thousand U.S dollars every month. It is now a profit-making venture. National television has also generated more than five million U.S dollars in profit in the last four months alone.”
On the demands by some Iraqi media for new government legislation, al Sadr indicated, “the upcoming constitution will include principles such as the rights of Iraqi citizens to freedom of speech and opinion. This will reflect positively on the media as it is the only direct medium to reflect the views of the public and lobby for its rights, especially as the media is exceedingly open and free. It is able to discuss a variety of issues and problems and suggest solutions. The new law stipulates the government finance the media network without having any power to interfere. The independence of the Iraqi media is guaranteed in Article 66, which specifies the government should not get involved in the daily running of the network or determine its political outlook.
Asked about the goals the Iraqi media wanted to achieve, al Sadr said, “The network hopes to change the public’s perception of the media. The majority still see the media as a propaganda tool for the government which was he case during the rule of Saddam Hussein who used the media to increase his grip on power and to publicize his evil policies.”
Nowadays, he added, “The media is radically different. You only have to look at the multitude of television stations, terrestrial and satellite, and the newspapers and radios to see this. The media are able to analyze events feely without fearing intervention. The Iraqi media network has successfully created, in print and on air, platforms to encourage public debate and discussion and monitor the government and its institutions. We will not shy away from criticizing those in power if we believe their work is deficient. The Iraqi media should echo the hopes of the people of Iraq and its desire for a free and honorable life.”
Commenting on the violations committed by some media organizations, al Sadr said, “The Higher Media Commission has the power to monitor media organizations and to issue permits as well as to impose restrictions in accordance with a code of conduct which the media has to agree to. It forbids inciting violence and civil strife or spreading rumors which harm the Iraqi people.” The Iraqi media network, he added, “has a duty to respond to such activities by the enemies of Iraq and publicize these practices and defend ourselves.” Al Sadri decried “the practices of some television channels which portray Iraq as a battle ground without mentioned the positive accomplishments which help create a feeling of stability and calm with the people of Iraq so they can go about their daily lives in peace.”