Iraq’s First Fourth Estate

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Maybe it’s not the first thing we think about when we hear the term “nation-building” — not when daily bombings are still, and increasingly, grabbing the headlines — but in fact a a robust, free press should probably be near the top of the list. So how do you go about building a new journalistic tradition on the rubble of a totalitarian regime’s media factory? And how do you convince the Iraqi public, who are so used to tuning out Saddam’s propaganda that they’ve learned to mistrust all news sources, that some journalism can be good journalism?


Aaron Raskin

Founder of Harbinger Productions

Producer of The Dreams of Sparrows

[In a studio in New York City]

From David’s pre-interview notes
Aaron showed up in Baghdad in December, 2003 — the month U.S. forces captured Saddam — with a trunk full of used digital video equipment and $5000. A year later, he and his Iraqi collaborators (cinematographers, directors, producers, drivers) had made a documentary about life in Baghdad after the U.S. invasion. There are more films in the works — documentaries for the time being, with fiction features in the future. Aaron started the project because he was sick of the way the war was being covered by American media outlets; two years later, it’s become an obsession.

Hayder Mousa Daffar

Director of The Dreams of Sparrows

[On the phone from Baghdad]

From David’s pre-interview notes
“When Aaron came to Baghdad, I had no equipment, no camera. Aaron e-mailed me, said what do you want? I said, camera and film. He sent it.

I focused on Iraqi people. What they hope for the future. The ways they suffer. I chose cultured people, crazies, taxi cab drivers. I thought I must put my camera in Baghdad to record what happened. Both sides. Iraqi people who like Saddam and hate Saddam.”

Ayub Nuri

Teacher for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Stringer and reporter for the BBC, the CBC, and PRI’s The World

[On the phone from Iraq]

From David’s pre-interview notes
Ayub is an Iraqi Kurd who taught himself English (to go along with his Kurdish, Arabic, and Persian)… and then taught himself how to be a reporter. Now he’s helping to teach his fellow Iraqis. It’s one thing to teach young, aspiring journalists; what about 30-year veterans of the state-run radio station?

Patrick Butler

Vice President, Programs, at the International Center for Journalists

[On the phone from Washington, D.C.]

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