Iraq: Media Spotlight on Community’s Environmental Challenges Ignites Investigations and Prompt Action

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

In the past few years, the Garmian area in the Sulaymaniyah Governorate has faced ongoing environmental risks, such as desertification, and the area needs urgent action to develop a plan to mitigate further escalation. Laila Ahmed, a 40-year-old female journalist, who has more than 15 years of experience as a journalist, expressed her concern “The Garmian area is facing many environmental risks besides desertification. However, the absence of media coverage on those issues remains a challenge. We need to be equipped to extend our efforts voicing those risks.”

Figure 1: Laila’s investigative report about garbage disposal process in Garmian city.

On May 1st, 2023, Laila participated in an online environmental journalism capacity-building training organized by Internews under the Environmental Journalism in Iraq project and expressed its impact on her, stressing “The training had a profound effect on my role as a journalist, inspiring me to emphasize the critical climate crisis, particularly within my city Garmian. It provided me with significant skills in producing investigative reports related to environmental concerns. As a result, I have directed my focus towards environmental journalism”.

Laila extended her dedication highlighting the major challenging issue of vulnerable waste (garbage) management in Garmian city and holding the garbage collection company accountable for reducing the number of garbage collection activities in rural villages and not committing to their contract. Her investigative report was published on June 7th, 2023, in both English and Kurdish languages with more than 600 views. After the publication of Laila’s report, she was contacted by Barzan Faiq, the Head of the Garbage Collection Committee of the General Directorate of Municipalities of the Garmian area, where he stated, “We are surprised to learn from your report that the dedicated company does not collect garbage from the villages, we will investigate this issue and solve it as soon as possible.”

Figure 2: Laila highlighting the environmental challenges to the Head of the Garbage Collection Committee

Following that, the company dedicated a space for garbage disposal where village residents can dispose of garbage. This video report had more than 1200 views. Moreover, Laila’s report had an additional impact where government authorities expressed their appreciation in voicing communities’ environmental challenges and emphasized their full commitment and support whenever needed. For instance, Barzan Faiq mentioned, “Laila’s report opened the door for us to investigate why the awarded company was not committing to the contract conditions. We are fully committed to show our support to the community and not only Laila, but all journalists to continue highlighting any challenges where we can step in and identify solutions.”

Laila’s unwavering dedication and commitment voicing the community’s environmental challenges through investigative reports, has allowed her to take part in an in-person capacity-building training on environmental journalism organized on August 5th, 2023, which focused on enhancing journalists’ skills in gathering and analyzing data related to environmental and climate change issues.

Figure 3: Investigative report on burning date palm trees in Khanaqin city.

On September 9th, 2023, Laila covered an investigative report highlighting a serious environmental issue facing Khanaqin City in Diyala Governorate which was burning more the 10 acres of date palm trees leading to air pollution and loss of green spaces. Her report accelerated the necessary action to this alarming situation. As a result, a parliament member from the same city requested a justification from the Municipality of Khanaqain regarding the issue. Furthermore, Laila will extend her efforts to expand the coverage of environmental issues in different areas using environmental journalism as a tool to pressure local and national policymakers on environmental laws/regulations and policy.