Covering Climate Change in Iraq: From Individual Interest to Building a Public Source

A new generation of journalists leading environmental journalism in Iraq at the forefront.

Climate change and environmental degradation have been severely impacting Iraq, as it has been ranked last among 180 countries on the Environmental Performance Index in the climate change mitigation category, facing massive environmental challenges in combating the environmental threats that pose a serious threat to the safety and health of people. However, women, mostly those living in rural areas who rely on their land for economic prosperity and the survival of their families, are particularly exposed to a greater risk.

Figure 1: Report on impacts of climate change on women residing in rural areas.

Sarah Jassim, a 38-year-old female journalist, and editor at Iraqiyat Digital Magazine from Baghdad governorate in Iraq, expressed her opinion “I cover news related to issues facing women in their communities, however, I was not aware that climate change and environmental degradation are putting women at further risk of exposure to various threats such as migration.”

On June 5th, 2023, Sarah participated in an online environmental journalism capacity-building training organized by Internews under the Environmental Journalism in Iraq project. Sarah was deeply impacted by the training and expressed her experience, stating “This training explained how the environmental and climate issues directly impact the society socially and economically. Also, it has given me the knowledge and important skills on how to make them an important part of news coverage as well. Therefore, I strongly believe that every media institution must take it upon itself to broadcast news related to the environment and climate and inspire action.”

Sarah was able to delve deeper into the environmental issues facing her community and was able to voluntarily write three different reports, the first one was about the impacts of climate change on women residing in rural areas in the southern part of Iraq, while the second report talked about the impacts of  drought on  the Iraqi marshes.  

Also, Sarah emphasized the importance of understanding how climate change affects men and women differently and any mitigation efforts addressing Iraq’s climate should be designed to address the specific challenges and needs of women and men, as they may experience the impacts of environmental changes differently.

Figure 2: Screenshot of the “Environment and Climate” section.

As a result, she created a dedicated section titled “Environment and Climate” at Iraqiyat Digital Magazine to cover and share all reports/news related to the environment and climate and closely shed light on the environmental issues in Iraq and inspire action. Also, she shared the section link among her network of journalists and activists for broader reach. Her efforts in publishing stories/report on various climate issues started in late May 2023. Up to this moment, a total of 40 reports/stories have been published in the section with more than 880 views.

A master’s student from Anbar University expressed the importance of having this dedicated section highlighting “It is a very useful resource for my research as I am covering an environmental topic, and the reports are voicing serious issues. I have already shared it with my colleagues from other universities to benefit as I did.”

Sarah’s recognized contributions allowed her to participate in an in-person capacity-building training on environmental journalism organized on August 11th, 2023, by Internews partner, which delved deeper into strengthening data collection and analytical skills on environmental and climate change issues. This opportunity opened doors for her to form a campaign aiming at limiting climate change and focusing on the issue of displacement of rural women to pressure decision-makers to create a national plan to limit climate change.

Additionally, Sarah’s future plan is to increase the audience reach of her section by involving more journalists using different networks to share their reports and widen the dissemination of different environmental issues.