Students in bid to train journalists in Iraq

A group of journalism students who launched an initiative to provide training and support to an independent news agency in Iraq have called for more journalism colleges and trainees to help out.

Chris Green, a journalism student at University College Falmouth in Cornwall, set up the Crossfire Media project last summer.

He and a small group of journalism and photography students travelled to Iraq to offer training and establish a basic support network for staff working at the Aswat al-Iraq agency.

Reporters were taught photography, filmmaking and web design, and were given help with their English-language writing.

Green also worked with the agency’s editor, Zuhair Jezairy, on a business strategy, helping to establish editorial links with the foreign press.

“It was basic support, but support they’d never had before,” Green told Press Gazette.

“At first they couldn’t understand why a group of students wanted to help them when no one else was interested.

“Our time there went so well that they asked us to formally become their educational and fundraising partners.”

Aswat al-Iraq, which means “Voices of Iraq”, was established in 2004 with funding from the United Nations Development Agency and the Reuters Foundation.

It reports the news in Arabic, English and Kurdish and employs an editorial staff of 70, acting as a training ground for many Iraqi journalists.

The agency was forced out of Baghdad in 2005 and is now based in Erbil in the Iraqi region of Kurdistan.

Three of its reporters have been killed since 2004 and more than 45 have received death threats.

Reuters stopped funding Aswat al-Iraq in November 2008. It is now helped by Crossfire – with some aid from the United Nations.

The Falmouth students have so far paid for the support system using their student loans, and money made by making promotional material for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

But the group have now learned that a well-known author, who does not wish his identity to be revealed, has donated a large sum of money and promised an exclusive interview.

Green said he would like more students and colleges of journalism to get involved with Crossfire Media.

He added: “The aim is to create a bond of learning between UK students and those in crisis-stricken countries. I’d like to see a globalisation of media learning.”

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