Springfield, Va. — Alhurra-Iraq Television and Radio Sawa provided extensive coverage of the Iraqi provincial elections held on April 20th – the first elections since the American troop withdrawal. Alhurra-Iraq and Radio Sawa’s reporters blanketed the country to get reaction from voters throughout Iraq and show all sides of the political spectrum.
“Coverage of Iraqi elections allows Alhurra and Radio Sawa to show democracy in action. Viewers and listeners tune into Alhurra and Radio Sawa to hear from all of the candidates. It’s about more than just who won or lost. It’s about the debate between politicians and about political parties talking directly to the voters through the media,” stated Brian Conniff, Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN) President. MBN manages and operates Alhurra and Radio Sawa.
Alhurra-Iraq provided 14 hours of live continuous coverage beginning at 7:00 a.m. (Iraq time) when the polls opened. Reporters filed updates from Baghdad, Babel, Najaf, Diyala, Basra, Imarra, Karbala and Sala Al Din.
This was the first time that prisoners and hospital patents were allowed to vote, and as a part of its Election Day coverage, Alhurra-Iraq interviewed hospital patients who expressed joy at being able to participate in the electoral process.
In Diyala, Alhurra-Iraq interviewed younger Iraqis campaigning for the first time. The young politicians expressed their hope for a better life and stated that the electoral process, not violence and sectarianism, is the way to accomplish change.
Voters also expressed their concerns due to the threats and recent bombings, but their desire to participate in the electoral process led them to overcome those fears.
Leading up to Election Day, Alhurra-Iraq aired a series of exclusive reports looking at the humanitarian aspects of the election, including:
- The story of a female candidate in Basra who wanted to run for office but could not afford printing materials. She made signs with pens and paper out of her kitchen.
- A report from a lower income community in Baghdad that feels the government has long ignored their problems. To have a voice, they pulled together their resources and submitted a candidate that will represent them.
- The case of Iraqi citizens stockpiling supplies in case the government imposed a curfew on Election Day; they complained that local shopkeepers were price gauging.
Alhurra-Iraq’s discussion programs have also focused on the elections. In Iraqi did a series of programs profiling candidates and their platforms, as well as the role of international monitoring organizations. Hiwar Khass had an in-depth interview with the head of the independent Electoral Commission, and Talk of Two Rivers toured the Commission to get a better understanding of the Electoral Commission’s role.
Radio Sawa extended its newscasts to provided updates on its Iraq and pan-Arab streams. Reporters stationed throughout the country provided live updates, including reports from the polling centers and the Election Commission headquarters. The radio network also focused on the monitoring organizations that were dedicated to transparency and fairness of the elections. Radio Sawa’s team coverage included interviews with Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Jaber Habib, who discussed the future of U.S. and Iraqi relations. U.S. Embassy Spokesperson Frank Finver praised Iraqis’ willingness to participate in the local elections, despite concerns about violence. One Iraqi political analyst stated that these local elections are important to reshape the political alliances for the foreseeable future. Another stated the elections were a success, both in terms of organization and turnout.
According to international research firms such as ACNielsen, Alhurra and Radio Sawa have a weekly reach of 63 percent in Iraq. They are operated by the non-profit corporation “The Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc.” (MBN). MBN is financed by the U.S. Government through a grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent federal agency. The BBG provides oversight and serves as a firewall to protect the professional independence and integrity of the broadcasters.