Iraq: Echoes of Change: Unveiling Environmental Challenges Through Chrakhan’s Media Podcast

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

Iraq, particularly the Kurdistan Region, has been extensively suffering from serious environmental issues and risks in the fields of water, land, noise, and air pollution. Some of these issues are the direct result of the damage and wars imposed over the last several decades. However, public environmental awareness, and shortage of comprehensive environmental reporting on media about these persisting issues remain as a big challenge. 

Figure 1: Chrakhan’s Podcast about the ongoing environmental challenges facing the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

Chrakhan Aso, a 33-year-old female journalist and reporter at Westga News Agency, who has more than 10 years of experience in the field of journalism, expressed her concern. “There is a notable void in environmental coverage. The absence of engaging and accessible environmental content left a crucial gap in public awareness about climate challenges. This absence hindered the community’s understanding of issues impacting their surroundings, from water and soil to broader climate concerns.”

On February 28th, 2023, Charakhan participated in an online environmental journalism capacity building training organized by Internews under the Environmental Journalism in Iraq project (EJI) and expressed its impact on her, highlighting that “The training played a pivotal role in guiding me on how to shed light on the persisting environmental crisis in Iraq, particularly in the Kurdistan Region of which some issues require immediate reporting for action, also plan for a future environmental program.”

On May 8th, 2023, Chrakhan published her first environmental report, revealing the ongoing crisis of burning forests in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and its negative impact on the ecosystem and diversity of green areas. This has allowed her to take part in an in-person capacity building training on environmental journalism organized on August 5th, 2023, by Internews partner Waterkeepers, which mainly focused on improving journalists’ skills in collecting and analyzing data associated with environmental and climate change concerns.

The impact of capacity building trainings extended beyond theoretical knowledge. As Chrakhan was deeply inspired by the sessions and was able to transform her initial environmental program idea into a podcast. The trainings’ role in this transformation was crucial, providing her with the insights and skills needed to pitch her idea of Green Box Podcast to Rudaw Media Network. Rudaw accepted Chrakhan’s proposal as they recognized a gap in their podcast programming regarding environmental topics. Also, the topic of climate change and environment being a current focus globally also played a significant role in their decision.

On November 6th, 2023, the first season of the Green Box Podcast was aired and included 13 episodes with aspirations for future seasons. The podcast series was published on all platforms of Rudaw, such as  Rudaw Podcast Channel, Youtube , Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. The reach is evidenced by its views and comments on various platforms. For instance, on Facebook, each episode reached an average of 2000 views, with some Instagram reels reaching up to 3300 views. On the other hand, the audience expressed the need for such information through the comments section. She also added “I want the Green Box Podcast to inspire others to engage with environmental issues. It’s a small contribution towards a more aware and responsible society”.

Following the completion of the first season, Rudaw has announced a second season for Green Box podcast which encouraged Chrakhan to further extend her efforts to expand the coverage of environmental issues to be accessible to a wider audience and bridge the gap between knowledge and action.

This success story goes beyond an individual’s achievement; it underscores the broader impact of the capacity building trainings by empowering journalists like Chrakhan to initiate projects that address the environmental critical issues. The EJI project contributes to a more informed public discourse on the environmental challenges in Iraq. Chrakhan’s transition from a participant to a podcast creator exemplifies the practical outcomes and transformative potential determined in the EJI project’s activities.