Al-Taie says media is consumed with politicians

964 Editor-in-Chief laments state of journalism in changing Iraqi landscape

ERBIL, October 11 — Writer and political researcher Sarmad Al-Taie used the phrase “Death of Politics” to describe the situation in Iraq after the 2021 elections, lamenting the state of journalism in the country.

Al-Taie, who is Editor-in-Chief of 964, made these remarks during the MERI Forum 2023 in Erbil, for which 964 is a media sponsor.

Al-Taie called out the Iraqi press for its preoccupation with covering the affairs of leaders and politicians over the past two decades.

He stated, “We, as journalists, bear responsibility for preoccupying the public with the affairs of politicians. It is time to direct the capabilities of the media and journalists, as well as social media influencers, towards covering the news of the country and the people, and what concerns the livelihood of the public.”

“Just as billions have been spent on electricity in Iraq, to no avail, billions have also been spent – from the same partisan authorities – on the media in Iraq, without the country having a successful media,” he said.

Al-Taie continued:

This year, journalism went through one of its most difficult years. 20 years after the fall of Saddam, suddenly everything changed.

We are experiencing a double change. For the first time, politics has died in Iraq. There were 20 years of politics, and a final year without politics. A party won and began imposing new rules of action.

If you write in the press or practice politics, then you are unlucky during this year. How do you understand Iraq in the absence of the rules that we are accustomed to, which were rules for negotiation, consensus, and dialogue? Now is the time of dictates and coercion.

How do you understand Iraq in the absence of Muqtada al-Sadr? I cannot understand Iraq in the absence of Muqtada al-Sadr.

May God help the politicians…how they practice politics and how they understand Iraq, so everyone is worried and does not know what to sign even in the negotiations, there are no clear terms.

We are facing a changing Iraq, and this was the biggest challenge for us. We were confused about what to write. We wrote about the dollar crisis, the collapse of the dinar, and some crises such as floods and earthquakes. We were not accustomed to this. There was a political game that we were covering, and now the game is over.

There became an agenda that must be implemented, so we invented the Year of Repentance. We said that we would repent from politics and write about people’s lives.

I lived in Iran for many years. News of the people was as important as news of the president and the leader.

In Türkiye, people’s lives used to take up half the front page of newspapers.

In the press of the royal era in Iraq, 70 percent of the front page of the newspaper was talking about the conditions of the people, while in Iraq today, there are 300 to 400 political figures occupying the entire Iraqi media space.

We decided to repent from politics for a year, and write about people’s lives. This is a repentance before the public, to whom we apologize because we spent 20 years telling them about such-and-such MP and such-and-such minister, and we made the public forget news of their lives and not get it like their peers in the peoples of neighboring countries.