Iraq's first news agency opens

By Dominic Ponsford

The Reuters Foundation has launched what it claims is Iraq’s first “independent and commercially viable” news agency.

The foundation, funded by Reuters, established an online “news exchange” last year. Called www.aswataliraq.info (Voices of Iraq) it was set up as a way for Iraqi freelances to share stories.

With
funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the
Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, this has now been
developed into a news agency run and staffed by Iraqi journalists, with
reporters in each of the country’s 18 provinces. So far Reuters
Foundation has provided training for more than 50 Iraqi journalists
contributing to Voices of Iraq.

Reuters editor-in-chief Geert
Linnebank said: “The development of a robust, independent and reliable
media industry in Iraq is of fundamental importance to the world’s
understanding of this nation and its people.

“This new agency,
the first of its kind in Iraq’s history, will have a profound effect on
how this country’s story is told. Staffed and run by local journalists
reporting on their own people and governments, I am sure it will become
an indispensable source that will provide a much fuller picture than we
have today of the key issues and events really driving this country’s
development.”

UNDP Iraq director Paolo Lembo said: “The
establishment of an independent news agency represents an important
step towards the strengthening of professional journalism in Iraq and
an incomparable means to facilitate social dialogue and promote
democracy.”

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