In Iraq, a country where the media continues to be divided along religious, political and ethnic lines, IMS opened the country’s first telephone hotlines for journalists in danger in Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan in March 2012 together with Iraqi partners. The hotline offers legal advice and investigates claims brought against journalists or authorities. In 2012, more than 2,500 calls were received and 17 cases investigated.
The Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM), a network of young bloggers from across Iraq co-founded by IMS remains a highlight in an otherwise troubled media environment. The Network has bridged the gap between young bloggers in the historically divided Kurdish north and the Arab south. Around 60 bloggers spited historical differences and attended the first conference for bloggers in Iraq held in Iraqi Kurdistan in February 2012.
The Network managed to halt the adoption of a restrictive law on cybercrime in 2012 that would criminalise anyone who criticised the government on websites and social media networks. They created a Facebook page that tracked the law and opposition to it, and convened a forum in the province of Diwaniya bringing together some 30 parliamentary officials, judges, lawyers, bloggers and journalists to discuss the law. This led to the law being put on hold.
“The key is to work with the authorities, not against them as we are both working to fight IT crime,” says Heyder Hamzoz, Iraqi blogger and coordinator of the INSM network.