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The Iraqi Radio and Television Corporation Law - Summary

Klaas Glenewinkel
As soon as the Summer Recess is over, the Iraqi parliament will be discussing the draft of the "Iraqi Radio and Television Corporation Law" that will change the make-up of the public broadcasting authority.
4.09.2006

During the Saddam regime, all broadcast media were part of the Iraqi Broadcasting and Television Establishment (IBTE) that, in turn, was under the authority of the Ministry of Information.

Before the 2003 Iraq War, in January 2003 the U.S. defense company Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) received the U.S. government contract to establish the Iraqi Media Network (IMN). First operations in Iraq started in March 2003 in Umm Qasr and then in Basra. On 13 May 2003 IMN broadcast for the first time from Baghdad. On 15 May 2005 the IMN newspaper "Al-Sabah" was founded in Baghdad. The old Ministry of Information was dissolved in late May 2003, all employees dismissed and its assets handed over to IMN, which had been tasked by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to act as the official broadcasting institution of post-Saddam Iraq.

The old laws from the Saddam era were only amended to fit the new situation, but not annulled. With its Order No 14 on "Prohibited Media Activity", on 10 June 2003 the CPA prohibited any publication or broadcast that could be seen as being against the U.S.-led multinational forces. In January 2004, Harris Communications received the contract to operate IMN, and established a partnership with LBC (Lebanon) and Al-Fawaris (Iraq/Kuwait).

With the Orders No 65 "Iraqi Communications and Media Commission" and No 66 "Iraq Public Service Broadcasting", on 20 March 2004 the CPA established the ICMC as the government regulatory authority for all communications and media activity in Iraq and the "Iraqi Media Network" (IMN) as the "Iraqi Public Service Broadcaster" (IPSB) licensed by the ICMC. On 28 June 2004, governance of IMN was handed to the Iraqi Governing Council.

The new law will decree the establishment of a “Iraqi Radio and Television Corporation” that will be a public institution based in Baghdad, with radio and TV studios throughout Iraq. According to Art. 1, the corporation "shall be independent from all undue political, commercial or other influences and, except as otherwise provided in this law, shall not be subject to the direction of any person or authority outside IRTC, except decisions of a court of law."

Its main objective is to be Iraq's main public broadcasting service (in different languages) in order to inform the people, to instill the values of the Iraqi constitution within the society, to entertain as well as educate the public, and also to promote Iraqi productions. (Art. 2)

The IRTC is to be a free forum for public debate, while at the same time to "enhance the fundamental values and traditions of Iraqi society", as well as to develop a code of professional standards that is binding for all employees of the corporation. (Art. 3)

Public funds pay for the work of the IRTC, but private sponsorship of programs is allowed as well. (Art. 4)

The law emphasizes that the IRTC should be free from political pressure, from commercial influence, and that its leadership is to consist of professionals. Thus, members of the Iraqi governments and parliaments, as well as members of political parties and their relatives are barred from leadership positions in the IRTC (Art. 8). There has to be enough public funding to "guarantee universal access to the services, and for programs in the fields of science, education and culture as well as for minorities." (Art. 4/2) The director and his deputy must have university degrees and a minimum of 5 years professional experience (Art. 14).

This law will set up the new institutional framework for the Iraqi public broadcasting service. It is soon to be followed by a Press and Media Law, outlining the rules and regulations for journalists in Iraq. The parliament of the Kurdistan Region is already discussing the draft of the Press Law for the region. Kurdistan's own public broadcasting service is currently reduced to Herem TV, as all radio stations and newspapers belong to a political party or are in private hands.

4 September 2006

For the complete text of the draft law (Arabic), please click here.

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A new draft law for the Iraqi media has been published this week, which differs in some details from the earlier one. To read the new draft, also published in the newspaper "Al-Sabah" on 12 September 2006, click here.

12 September 2006

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