Iraq is considered the only country in the region where journalists are dismissed illegally from their jobs; violating the constitution, and regulations that protect media and journalists.
Press Freedom Advocacy Association has recorded hundreds of cases of dismissing media personnel from several visual and heard media stations till October\2015. Dismissal was imposed with no prior notice or any financial reconciliation.
In spite of the difficulty of providing accurate figures in this concern; but at least 905 cases of dismissal were registered, most of who are journalists, correspondents, cameramen, broadcasters, and presenters of daily TV programs.
The Association recorded the closure of eight media bodies. Only one resumed its function after releasing its entire staff whereas none of the others returned to the media arena.
It is worth noticing that none of the journalists have received any allowances or settlement. No concern for the future of the journalists and media personnel was shown by their administrations since no contracts are signed between both sides, In addition to the high risk of dismissal by other media bodies in the light of the ongoing financial crisis that the country is witnessing.
- Closed Media bodies:
- Al-Hurriya Channel: closed last year after dismissing 300 employees of whom most are journalists, cameramen and directors. Employees demanded financial reconciliation that would cover their expenses till finding other jobs, yet no response was made. Our colleagues in the channel confirmed that no prior notice was received and many of them, after 9 months of closure, remain jobless.
- Al-Adhwaa Satellite Channel: closed for financial shortage. It dismissed its entire staff without prior notice or any retirement allowance. The number of its employees exceeded 60 persons.
- Baghdad Satellite Channel: closed last May, due to being short of covering satellite broadcasting fees ($ 400,000). Workers received a notice for retirement before one month but no allowances were paid. In spite of three months passing, only a few of its cadres found other opportunities in Babiliya and Dijlah Satellite Channels.
- Al-Bayan Newspaper: the administration told its employees that the journal would close for one week due to financial shortage but it closed down since then. The staff was paid after two weeks after cutting the salary; cuts reached up to ID 50,000.
Some of the employees told Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq that the journal is the spoken word of Al-Dawa party and that both PM Haydar Al-Ibadi and Vice President Nuri Al-Maliki, showed no responsibility towards the newspaper or its personnel.
- News Center: Iraqi Media Network closed the News Center that was run by more than 30 journalists including 11 who were seconded to other Departments in the Net. Whereas most of the others were freelance journalists and were dismissed without following on their career. Iraqi Network has previously closed other test channels like Al-Iraqiya 2, documentary, and Sindbad for financial issues. But in this case no employee was dismissed and they were seconded to other Departments.
- Waar Sports Channel: the entire staff of 40 was dismissed due to financial crisis.
- Al-Ghad Newspaper: the newspaper was closed because of the (reducing costs) policy that was adopted by the Administration of the Foundation. No concern was shown towards its 20- employee staff.
- Al-Massdar News Agency: the administration dismissed its entire staff under the claim of financial crisis; financial support was denied from the administration. But it resumed its work after a while with a new staff and the old staff is reported jobless till now.
- Media bodies that reduced cadre numbers and salaries:
- Aldiyar Channel: Before the crisis, the Channel was relatively stable in finance and employed about 145 journalists. It also provided paid training which was the first to be cancelled upon the financial crisis that erupted early this year. The first reduction resulted in dismissing 60 employees and 20 others were further subjected to the same decision after a short time. It is worth mentioning that the intention of dismissing more employees is underway.
- Huna Baghdad Channel: most of the 87 of the dismissed employees are news editors, and correspondents. At the same time remaining salaries were reduced 25%. Salary payment in the channel is $1000 in average.
- Al-Ahad Channel: remaining salaries were reduced 20% after dismissing 40 journalists, editors, Cameramen and correspondents.
- Al-Rashid Channel: the administration dismissed a large number of its staff including part of the founding group, without prior notice.
- Al-Itijah Channel: high reduction in number of staff in both central and provincial offices along the country. Insiders told Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq that most of the employees were dismissed and the remaining staff was forced to intensify its efforts. They added that in addition to Baghdad’s cadre reduction the same applied to provinces where most of the channel’s correspondents were active. These measures were taken in response to the financial reduction policy adopted by the channel. Al-Itijah English Channel was closed down since last June.
- Dijlah Channel: salary cuts reached 15%; the Channel announced that this shortage would continue 3 months and then there would be a return to normal payment.
- Al-Sumariya Channel: due to financial crisis, 45 employees were dismissed.
- Al-Rafidain Channel: a few members of staff were dismissed due to financial degradation and supporting party changes.
- Al-Fayhaa Channel: the Manager told his staff that no salaries are available for a fair length of time because of accumulated dues for the benefit of Nilesat satellite, and reduced financial support. The channel is in risk of being shut down at any time now.
- Qirttas News Agency: dismissed all correspondents from provinces, leaving only 13 employees from the original 30. Dismissed journalists remain jobless till the time of this report.
- Tareiq Al-Shaab Newspaper: dismissed 13 journalists, reduced its issue to 8 pages and is expected to become a weekly after being a daily release, due to financial restrictions and lagged advertisement services.
- AynulIraq Agency: cadre reduced to 10 from the original 30. The Agency is financed by an Islamic Party and as noticed above, the dismissed remain jobless. 15 victims sued the Agency but only 5 were compensated.
- Al-Alam Newspaper: y, 5 were dismissed lately to leave the paper operating with only 7, due to financial crisis and absence of governmental ads.
- Al-Babiliya Channel: 10% of the employees’ salaries reduced due to financial restrictions.
- Alfurat: 10% cut downs in payment included non- journalist staff as well.
- Al-Masar Al-Ula Channel: cadre reduced from 100 to 65, for financial shortage; monthly budget reduced from $110,000 to $60,000. The administration is subjected to high financial pressure and large deficit for producing programs or any outdoor coverage except for urging issues. Monthly deficit is about ID 7,000,000. Salaries are covered from ads.
- Alsabah Al-Jadid: reduced 20% of salaries and is threatened of closure.
Main causes of dismissal:
- Political parties stopped funding Media Establishments due to the crisis that stormed the country after oil’s falling prices.
- For the same reason, Ads that promote Governmental projects and programs no longer channel funds to media.
- Some of the channels were self- propaganda oriented; politicians marketed their names for electoral purposes, thus; they feel no sympathy with their media channels since political mapping has changed.
The Association’s Attitude:
Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq considers this unprecedented dismissal of journalists, editors, correspondents, cameramen and media-persons a grave insult and an immense violation to valid laws and regulations that are stipulated in the Iraqi constitution and that set the criteria for journalism in Iraq.
At the time when the Association realizes the crisis that the country is witnessing, it denies the insulting conduct of dismissing cadres without prior notice, adding that the law should be reinforced by signing legal contracts that secure the rights of both sides.
The Association urges all mentioned media bodies to compensate their dismissed staff especially that they hold a legal right for prosecution.