Iraqi Media As an International Project: Gender Politics and Journalism in Iraqi Kurdistan

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Deniz GOKALP, American University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
International actors have been involved in institution building in Iraq since 2003, which include helping Iraqis write a new constitution, defend human rights against state oppression, stop gender-based violence and build capacity for civil society. “A free media for democratic Iraq” has been promoted and supported by the US-led foreign governments to mark a radical shift away from state-oppression and the media strictly controlled before the occupation. International organizations including human and women rights groups have started to develop close relations with the newly emerging groups of Iraqi journalists and media activists. In the relatively peaceful context of Iraqi Kurdistan together with the optimism associated with the American occupation and the increasing salience of western discourses about human rights and democracy, an imaginary political space that would give Iraqi Kurds more freedom of expression has opened. Political and social issues such as the two-party domination, tribal oppression, corruption, patriarchy and gender-based violence have come to be discussed in the traditional as well as new social media outlets and faced retaliation from the Kurdish Regional Government and/or conservative sectors of the society. Focusing on media and gender politics in Iraqi Kurdistan, this article provides a provisional examination of the articulation between international agendas concerning democracy, civil liberties, human and women rights and Iraqi Kurdish journalism since 2003. Based on field-research and interviews with journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014, this study aims to shed light on 1) how Iraqi Kurdish journalism has (re)interpreted the principles of democracy, rights and liberties, 2) what has been the role of international actors in shaping the agenda for local journalists especially in addressing gender issues, and 3) how to explain the discrepancy between the international and local priorities when it comes to promoting one social or political issue at the expense of the other.