Newsletter No 3 13 October 2005
 
News from the Media Scene:
Iraqi News Agency Goes After Profit

A year ago, the independent news agency Voices of Iraq was created to serve for both Iraqi and international media. The service counts on becoming profitable in 2006.

“There is a desperate need among emerging local media for a national news agency. They are struggling to cover the news without any resources and, in addition to that, have to deal with insecurity,” says Paul Eedle, director of the Voices of Iraq news agency, which was launched one year ago with the editorial support of Reuters Foundation and the financial support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECI). “Our goal is to establish a national news agency, while our challenges are working in an insecure environment, and the lack of means.”
 
The news agency has a network of more than 30 correspondents covering all of Iraq. Material is also drawn from four local newspapers: As Sabah al Jadid and Al Taakhi in Baghdad, Al Hawlaki in Sulaimaniyah and Al Mannarah in Basrah. While the managing editor of the agency is based in Baghdad, the editing desk is in Cairo, under the leadership of interim editor-in-chief Assem Abdel Mohsen. “We decided to settle the editing desk in Cairo as it was not easy to find experienced Iraqi sub-editors. In Cairo we can use the skills of former Reuter’s Arab editors while we run training programs for the Iraqi staff. Of course, security conditions in Iraq also played a role in the decision. However, our future goal is to have all of the agency based in Iraq,” says Eedle.

Voices of Iraq currently publishes more than 600 news items a month in Arabic. A Kurdish service has been launched in the city of Sulaimaniyah, Northern Iraq. The English service, which is currently publishing only one story a day, will soon expand. 

The agency provides breaking news to local, regional and international media. “Since our services are free for the time being, we do not have a detailed list of our users. However, I can say that about a dozen broadcast and print media in Iraq are using our services. Among the international media, the most important one is the London-based Al Sharq al Awsat newspaper, which uses our material extensively.”

Voices of Iraq (www.aswataliraq.info) intends to become commercially viable. “We are supposed to introduce fees at the beginning of 2006. Not only local media are interested in Iraq. Also media in the Middle East and the rest of the world are interested in what is happening there. Furthermore, Arab and international companies keep a constant eye on what is going on in the country. Iraq has an incredible economic potential if we think about the opportunities concerning reconstruction and, of course, oil resources. These companies will be interested in getting news from the country. Therefore, we think we will have good chances of selling our services.”