Mitigating incitement to violence in Iraq’s politicized media landscape has been a primary goal of USIP since 2009. Preventing Media Incitement to Violence in Iraq is aimed at granting Iraqi media stakeholders in both government and civil society ownership of self-regulatory tools so that they can effectively counter media incitement in their own organizations. Ongoing content analysis is conducted to inform the development and application of these tools.
Since 2003, Iraqi media have generally lacked the regulatory framework and self-regulatory capacity needed to prevent inflammatory reporting. As a result, Iraqi media have been used as a political weapon to instigate violence in Iraq, while at the same time media have fallen victim themselves to political and ethnic strife.
At a workshop in Beirut in October 2010, Iraqi media regulatory officials, civil society media monitoring organizations, and news directors and reporters from across the broadcast sector in Iraq were trained in content analysis methodology in order to better understand, track and reduce inflammatory reporting by Iraqi news outlets. Due to a content analysis baseline study conducted by the Center and the Annenberg School for Communication, participants were able to see exactly the extent and content of media incitement in the run-up to Iraqi elections in 2010. Media stakeholders also discussed how to integrate resources such as the User Guidelines for Preventing Media Incitement to Violence in Iraq into their work while collaborating on the development of a draft Style Guide for Reporting on Conflict (Arabic/English), a "living document" customizable to meet the needs of individual media organizations.
A follow-up workshop was conducted in Erbil in December of 2011 to broaden the circle of key media decision-makers working to prevent media incitement and to continue to revise and customize the Style Guide drafted by participants in the Beirut workshop. A main objective of both workshops was to place ownership of self-regulatory tools into the hands of Iraqi stakeholders themselves. Therefore, USIP and expert trainers designed a practical, hands-on training program for the Erbil workshop to build on the progress made earlier in Beirut. Participants learned how to conduct their own content analysis, and they continued to revise and customize the Style Guide for use at their own organizations.
In addition to including key decision-makers from three media sectors in its workshops to prevent incitement, USIP also sought to facilitate collaboration across these sectors. Regulators, news directors, academics and media monitoring experts worked together in mixed groups in order to share best practices and common interests in mitigating inflammatory reporting. More effective communication among these actors is crucial in enabling regulators and NGO monitors to better understand newsroom practices and therefore provide more credible oversight of the media.