Iraq: Solution Journalism Reporting Is Holding Duty Bearers Accountable for Action

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

On September 11, 2023, the  Iraqi Agency Shafaq News published a report highlighting the major water crisis currently facing the southern Iraqi governorate of Al-Diwaniyah which may potentially lead to future health, social, and economic challenges, as Al-Diwaniyah’s main source of income is agriculture. Additionally, the Middle East Research Institute highlighted that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has long warned that the water available in Iraq is set to decrease by around 20 percent by 2025, threatening the long-term stability of Iraq’s agriculture and industry.

Figure 1: A report on the status of Afak River in Al- Diwaniyah governorate.

Ali Qahtan, a 36-year-old male journalist and reporter at Al-Sharqiyah News TV, who has more than 11 years of experience in the field of journalism, expressed his concern “Journalists need to raise the public awareness on media and hold duty bearers accountable about the serious environmental crisis facing the governorate, particularly the issue of water scarcity. However, journalists limited capacity in covering environmental topics and lack of available resources remained a challenge, also the less demand in the newsroom on environmental topics formed an obstacle to cover such topics.”

On February 15, 2023, Ali participated in a virtual environmental journalism capacity-building training organized by Internews under the Environmental Journalism in Iraq project and expressed its impact “The training had a profound impact on me, leading me to a much deeper understanding of the significance of climate change. It inspired me to focus on environmental journalism. As a result, 50% of my reports are now focused on environmental journalism, while it was previously only 10%.”

Ali dedicated high efforts to highlighting major environmental issues facing different cities across Iraq and how it is negatively impacting the community and was able to voluntarily produce several TV reports on specific issues, such as the migration of families from the villages of Al-Budair district, south of Al-Diwaniyah due to the drying up of irrigation streams where families suffered from skin diseases due to the usage of well water that contains sulfur.  Also, a report on the impact of drought approaching approximately 30,000 acres of the city of Samawah’s finest date palms, posing a serious threat to their survival. He also produced another report discussing the elevated levels of salinity and pollution in the Euphrates River in Samawah City due to the untreated sewage that is discharged directly into the river. Moreover, his latest report highlights the issue of the drought of the Al-Haffar River in Al-Diwaniyah governorate, which used to irrigate hundreds of thousands of agricultural crops.

Figure 2: The Afak River in Al- Diwaniyah governorate after cleaning and lining it

In addition to that, Ali conducted an interview with Muhammad Kashash, who is a member of the General Union of Agricultural Association where he stated “Al-Diwaniyah has lost over the past two years more than one trillion and one hundred billion Iraqi dinars because it did not grow rice, wheat, and other agricultural crops due to scarcity.”

Ali’s true passion and commitment in covering high-quality information about the current environmental crisis has given him further steps to participate in an in-person capacity-building training on environmental journalism organized on August 11, 2023, by Internews partner, which delved deeper into strengthening data collection and analytical skills on environment and climate change issues. He described his experience, mentioning that “The solution journalism was very new to me and was the driving engine to my upcoming reports to pressure the duty bearers and hold them accountable and promote for urgent action.”

Ali has covered a detailed report shedding light on the drying up of the Afak River in Al-Diwaniyah governorate, due to the large number of violations, wastage of water, and the spread of shrubs, which made the river vulnerable to complete drought, and hosted the mayor of Afak District Majid Al-Mandhour mentioning “Challenges of water scarcity affected the water level of the Afak River. Under the guidance of the Governor of Al-Diwaniyah, a meeting was held with the Director of Water Resources to search for a suitable mechanism to reduce the dryness of the river. We made a plan to solve this issue,” and following that, the Ministry of Water Resources responded after watching the episode and responded to cleaning the river and lining it, after which the river water level rose and reached some villages that had been deprived of water for long periods.

Also, Ali covered another report on the issue of drinking water filtration stations being out of service due to the low water levels of secondary rivers in some villages in the Al-Diwaniyah governorate, forcing people there to rely on buying water to cover their daily needs. After this report, the governor of Al-Diwaniyah responded by issuing a decision to send tanker trucks to transport water in those areas until the issue is resolved.

Ali’s future is to continue focusing on covering topics related to climate and the environment and aims to produce films that highlight the challenges using solution journalism.