Huge risk-taking is not reflected in salaries of Iraqi journalists

Western news organisations aren’t paying Iraqi journalists even close to the same amount as their western colleagues, despite the huge risk to their personal safety, according to Iraqi trainee reporter Hisham Alwan.

Alwan, 22, who worked as a news desk editor for US network ABC in Baghdad before joining the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, told Press Gazette: “In Iraq, most western organisations use Iraqis for field work and pay them less than the western journalists who are doing the same or less than them, just because they are Iraqis.

“Iraqis keep working with western media because their salaries are still higher than what can they get if they worked with local newspapers in Baghdad.”

Alwan has been a journalist for four years. While working for ABC he used to up to six hours a day in the streets looking for stories, talking to people to find out what’s happening in the area without letting on he was a journalist. As an Iraqi, he could get stories that western journalists can’t, said Alwan.

But emphasising the dangers for Iraqi journalists he added: “Sometimes it’s even more dangerous for Iraqis because they don’t have any kind of protection. It is too easy for terrorists to track them down and kill them. Even in the cases of kidnapping, usually the Iraqi is killed and western journalist released after the ransom is paid.”

Alwan said that while ordinary Iraqis usually respect journalists, they are targeted by extremists and often keep their profession a secret.

“I do work at a great risk, but I continue because there are a lot of things going on in the streets that no one knows any thing about, and my job is to make other people see it.”

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