Censorship and control
According to the organisation “Reporters Without Borders”, Iraq is one of the ten most press-hostile countries in the world. Both print and audiovisual media are strictly controlled by the regime and used for propaganda purposes, the organisation reported.
News from sources not controlled by the state is hardly accessible to the Iraqi population. The freedom of movement of foreign journalists in Iraq is severely restricted. Satellite dishes to receive foreign programmes are prohibited, and Internet cafes are constantly monitored. Only with transistor radios can the population secretly inform themselves about foreign media.
The official Iraqi media did not even mention that UN inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei resumed their inspections. In a press freedom survey conducted by the organisation last October, Iraq ranked 130th out of 139 countries. Right after his election as president in 1979, Saddam Hussein closed all newspapers that did not support his party in taking power. The number of threats and arrests as well as torture and executions of media representatives had increased dramatically. It is forbidden to insult or criticise the president, his entourage or the ruling Baath Party under the death penalty.
More than 400 Iraqi journalists have gone into exile since 1979, and dozens have disappeared. Foreign journalists must expect their work to be closely monitored. Entry permits would be issued very arbitrarily.
It is forbidden to take pictures of official buildings or address sensitive issues, the organisation reported. As a rule, foreign journalists must be accompanied by an official guide. The authorities put media representatives under pressure by threatening to withdraw their work and shooting permits or to expel them. Iraqi journalists working for foreign media are extremely vulnerable.
About The Republic of Iraq
The Republic of Iraq lies on the north-eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, the Persian Gulf (40 km of coastline) and Kuwait to the south, Saudi Arabia to the south-west and Syria and Jordan to the west. With an area of 438 317 km², the country is about five times larger than Austria.
In the east and southeast of Iraq lies the historical landscape of Mesopotamia (Mesopotamia) between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, where the first human civilization developed in the 4th century BC. The northern part of Mesopotamia is a steppe landscape that merges into fertile alluvial land in the south. The Euphrates flows from Syria through Iraqi territory over a length of about 1,100 km and joins the Tigris near the town of Al Kurnah in the southeast of the country to form the Shatt el Arab, which flows into the Persian Gulf. The Tigris coming from Turkey flows through Iraq on a length of approx. 1 450 km. The two large lakes Habbaniyah Lake (350 km²) near the city of the same name and Hammar Lake in the southeast of the country are both fed by the Euphrates and today serve as reservoirs.
In the north and northeast of Iraq, the country shares the Taurus and Zagros mountains, which rise to altitudes of over 3,000 m. The Taurus and Zagros mountains are the most important areas of the country. The highest elevation of the country is the Haji Ibrahim with 3 609 m. The deserts in the west and southwest and the steppes in the northwest cover about three quarters of the country. The capital Baghdad lies on the Tigris in the fertile Mesopotamia.
Approximately 26.07 million people live in Iraq, approx. 40% are younger than 15 years. The population density is low at around 66 inhabitants per square kilometre. Over 70 % of the total population live in cities, the greater Baghdad area alone accounts for almost one fifth of all Iraqis. Three-quarters of them are Arabs, the largest minority being the Kurds living mainly in the north, who account for about 17% of the total population. Smaller minorities in the country are Turkmen, Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Arameans.
Islam is the state religion in Iraq, 97 % of the population are Muslim, almost two thirds of them Shiites. Religious minorities include Christians and Yazidi. The official languages are Arabic and Kurdish (in the northern provinces), and various dialects are spoken.
Life expectancy is 69 years on average. Population growth remains high at 2.7 %; literacy is estimated at only 40.5 %, three quarters of all women cannot read or write.
According to the 2005 Constitution, Iraq is a parliamentary federal republic. The three-member Presidential Council consists of the President (Jalal Talabani, since April 2005; Kurd) and two Vice-Presidents. It is elected by parliament and includes a representative of the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. The ministers were appointed by the Presidential Council. Prime Minister is Nuri Al-Maliki (since May 2006). The Parliament consists of one chamber (Madschlis an-Nuwaab) and has 328 members elected by proportional representation (25% reserved for women). Iraq is divided into 18 administrative units (muhafazat).
Iraq’s economy, traditionally based on oil exports, has been massively weakened by the wars since 1980 and the UN embargo (1991-2003). After the victory of the US-led alliance in 2003, most economic activities came to a complete standstill. Due to the precarious security situation, reconstruction was slow to gain momentum. Almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. In the meantime, however, the forecast for the Iraqi economy is relatively good.
Almost 70 % of GDP is generated in the industrial sector, and here again centrally by oil production (99 % of exports). Other mineral resources in the country are sulphur and phosphate deposits and various ores (uranium, iron, zinc, lead, chromium, manganese, copper).
Agriculture, which accounts for 9% of GDP, produces mainly wheat, rice, vegetables, dates and cotton; cattle, sheep and poultry are bred. The main consumers of Iraqi oil are the USA, followed by India and South Korea. Imports – machinery, various processed products, chemicals and food – come from Syria, Jordan, Turkey and the USA.
All parts of the country now have international airports. Passenger train services have resumed between Baghdad and Basra. The currency is the New Iraqi Dinar (= 1 000 Fils).