On October 30, 1998, RFE/RL’s newest broadcast service, Radio Free Iraq (RFI) took to the air. Times have changed drastically for Iraqis since then, but the crucial mission of RFI has not. RFI, known locally as Iraq Hurr, consistently leads local media in live coverage of important events such as local and national elections and protests, while also reporting on cultural and social issues other Iraqi media often ignore, such as discrimination, honor killings, domestic violence and corruption.
Veteran journalist Nabil Ahmed had the distinction of reading the very first news bulletin broadcast on RFI. Still reporting today, he talks about the role RFI plays in a tumultuous and struggling country. Another RFI journalist, Kareem Saleem Al-Abbassi, tells how he finds the grit to report the news despite constant threats.
A sampling of recent reports showcasing RFI’s impact in the region:
“Questions about the shape of the new government in Kurdistan Region” (October 4)
Analysis of recent election results in Kurdistan, where a new political group has shaken up the long-standing power-sharing arrangement that existed between the once-dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (led by Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani).
“The Forgotten Neighborhood of Jawadain” (October 3 – Note: In Arabic)
This report on the neglected region in Maysan Province prompted authorities to send a delegation to investigate reports of intolerable conditions. The delegation confirmed the report and pledged to do everything in their power to make the region livable for its residents, who thanked RFI for helping get the attention of the local authorities with its reporting.
“Iraqi Prisoners Say Treatment Harsher After Mass Breakout” (October 1)
Using smuggled cellphones, prisoners at Iraq’s Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons contacted RFI to complain of mistreatment in the wake of massive escapes from the prisons in July. After fact-checking the allegations and seeking comment from Iraqi government officials, the Service published stories in both Arabic and English on the increasingly harsh and sectarian treatment of inmates, who charged that “[prison security] ordered [Shia inmates] to go out and beat some Sunnis, but we refused to do so because they are our brothers. This then became an almost daily occurrence, but it was the security people who were doing the beating.”.”
Follow more news from Radio Free Iraq online, including a March 2013 profile of a 15-minute interactive radio program geared to Iraqi youth , an audience that lived much of their childhood under the cloud of war.