Front Page News in Iraq
What does it take to make the front page nowadays, and why is it newsworthy? The more money at stake, the higher the death toll, the more deplorable the scandal, the closer it gets to the front page. There are good reasons for this. Oil prices affect the quality of life of millions of people. Media coverage of natural disasters and human rights abuses raises awareness and solicits aid. Uncovering scandals and scrutinizing popular figures reinforce social mores and maintain some semblance of ethical order for taxpayers.
On the flip side, if catastrophe is now the status quo for front page news, what does this mean for the newsworthiness of positive developments? Either good news is not as common as bad news, or media gatekeepers feel it is not as interesting to readers. SAT-7 has been bringing good news to and from the region for years, and this post concludes with good news from Iraq.
In April 2008, while living in Cairo, I was reading a local Arabic newspaper when I came across a fascinating story. Entitled “Officer Refuses Bribe from Flour Trafficker in Cairo,” the article in al-Masry al-Yom hailed a local police officer for turning down a bribe of 1,700 L.E. (Egyptian pounds) in cash and a brand new cell phone. The officer apprehended the suspects, who had been driving a truck loaded with subsidized flour, without accepting the money or the phone. Police corruption, especially bribery, is so commonplace in Egypt that it is newsworthy for a police officer to do his job and turn down a bribe. While I was curious to see this indirect confirmation of ubiquitous police corruption, the story did not make the front page. On the same day, the feature article on the front page of al-Masry al-Yom was sadly ironic. It detailed the crisis of a worldwide increase in food prices and the looming threat of starvation for many families.
Today, Iraqi newspapers feature a variety of public concerns. Just a few of the recurring themes in front page headlines are sectarian politics, deadly insurgent attacks, oil and gas bids, and prisoner deals. This week, online Iraqi news source Azzaman featured a positive development in assuaging Baghdad’s housing crisis, as new housing projects are in the works. But is the dearth of encouraging articles a realistic sign of the times or an ongoing journalistic tendency?
In light of what is making headlines in Iraq, I must share a great story that should be making headlines in Iraq. Last Sunday, the SAT-7 ARABIC show From Me to You hosted a special LIVE episode from the town of Erbil, Iraq. Presenters Jamie, Joyce and Rawad took calls from viewers, led the LIVE audience in worship, and invited testimony from show guests.
Viewers called in from all over the country—Baghdad, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyah—to wish the team a pleasant visit in Iraq. Jamie also interviewed a guest who shared how she came to Christ. The guest said she attended church and learned about Jesus until she decided to give her life to Him. She said about her salvation story, “Of course, it’s a simple experience but, for me, it is a magnificent one.”
A guest performer on the show, Katherine, sang praise songs for the audience in both Arabic and Kurdish languages. Arabic is one official language in Iraq, and Kurdish is the official language in Kurdish regions, which includes Erbil. Iraqis of Kurdish ethnic origins comprise about 20% of the country’s total population.
Next month, SAT-7 will launch a new show supporting and encouraging the minority community of Christians in Iraq. The show will be called Allo Iraq. It will follow a similar format to From Me to You, but will respond to relevant social issues in Iraq with Iraqi presenters Lina and Ehsan. The recent special LIVE episode of From Me to You and the upcoming premiere of Allo Iraq are designed to attract a teen audience and are part of an increased SAT-7 focus on Iraq.
For more on SAT-7 in Iraq, look for upcoming articles in What’s New at sat7usa.org.