9/27/2004

Iraqi free press

Under the ousted leader Saddam Hussein’s long reign Iraqis had only access to five state-controlled dailies. The newspapers had different names but they were almost identical in content The media landscape in the country since Saddam Hussein’s downfall has dramatically transformed, however.

In the nearly 15 months since Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, 278 newspapers have appeared, almost one every three days. But the wide access to the print media available to the Iraqis is not matched by other outlets.

Local television and radio are still in their infancy with a handful of channels with limited coverage and broadcast. Access to satellite dishes and the internet, forbidden under Saddam Hussein, is permissible now. There are no reliable statistics on the circulation of these newspapers but Iraqis are known to be among the most avid readers in the Middle East.

The country’s most influential newspaper is Azzaman which currently publishes two local editions, one in Baghdad and the other in Basra. Azzaman’s circulation inside Iraq is estimated at more than 100,000. The paper also prints an international edition in both London and Bahrain of which 60,000 copies are printed a day.

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