The printed press in the semi autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan is slowly dying out. But as it does so, online media seems to be becoming more and more popular. The last well known newspaper to close was Komal, a weekly publication run by the Islamic opposition parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Islamic Group. The newspaper was closed in January of this year because, as the Kurdistan Islamic Group said, “the printed press, in general, and the partisan press, in particular, has been witnessing a significant decline. So we decided to close the newspaper.”
The closure of Komal saw the number of newspapers and magazines shutting down in Iraqi Kurdistan rise to around 40. According to the Kurdistan Journalist’s Syndicate there are around 470 kinds of printed media being published around Iraqi Kurdistan, with the majority being magazines and around 100 newspapers.
Some of the newspapers were well known and although not all of them spoke publicly about it, it seemed that a decrease in sales was the main issue behind the closures. Even some of the region’s most popular publications have been at risk, including popular sports magazines.
“Sales of the best known newspapers have decreased by at least 20 percent and the decline in sales impacts most on privately owned and independent newspapers, which heavily rely on sales,” Hashim Daoudi, the owner of a firm that distributes around 55 newspapers and magazines around the region, said. “And this decrease is expected to continue over the next few years. More newspapers and magazines will soon have to close if things go on this way.”
Figures indicate that even the best known Kurdish newspapers don’t sell more than 4,000 copies per issue. The population of Iraqi Kurdistan is estimated at around 4.7 million- so this indicates that a tiny percentage of locals buy and read them.
While the rise of online media at the expense of printed media is a global phenomenon, local observers say that newspapers in Iraqi Kurdistan tend to give up more easily when they come up against a financial crisis.
“The Internet and social media, like Twitter and Facebook, have shaken the printed press. But international newspapers are still trying their best to find solutions and survive,” local media professor Yahya al-Rishawi said. “While Kurdish newspapers seem to be closing without looking into how they could survive.”
Having said that, the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan is a little different. Many existing newspapers are not dependent on how many copies or how much advertising they sell. Instead they’re funded, either directly or indirectly by political parties or other interested parties and are known locally as “shadow newspapers”. Because they’re funded privately, often the quality of the reports within is not particularly high as the publications are not too concerned with gaining a readership.
Still al-Rishawi doesn’t think the printed press will ever disappear altogether from Kurdistan. “There are many people who still enjoy reading printed newspapers and flipping the pages, instead of reading from computer screens,” he concluded.