Many observers have fears that the lines between politics and independent journalism in Iraq are becoming blurred.
Recently, Muntadher al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, who became prominent in year 2009 when he threw a shoe at former US President George W. Bush and called him a dog, officially announce his candidacy for May 12 parliamentary elections. According to him, he likes to lock up every thief who robbed the wealth of Iraq and he also explains his plans on passing a law that would make corrupt politicians accountable.
Zaidi’s nomination with Sairoon Coalition, which is an alliance between Iraqi Communist Party and Sadirst Movement, was celebrated by all of his supporters. However, it wasn’t received with the same enthusiasm level among Iraqi public as his goodbye kiss to Bush from the people of Iraq ten years ago.
Sairoon Coalition led by Muqtada al-Sadr, Shia leader, is one of the 5 primary Shia factions running in election for another new parliament. Although numerous parties have taken the chance to emphasize a cross-sectarian, unified national identify in run-up to vote, Iraq will remain plagued by the divisions along ethnic and sectarian lines.
With a huge number of Iraqi journalists contesting the elections, the first since ISIS defeat, the observers fear that lines between the politics and independent journalism will become blurred. According to the High Electoral Commission of Iraq, there has been some media personalities and journalists entering electoral frays.
A member of High Electoral Commission said that they do not know the exact number of the journalists running in election, yet they’re absolutely in tens. The numbers are bigger than the previous votes. The move that some have considered being a visible phenomenon has raised the concerns of the fellow journalists who believe that their profession would be marred by the politics. An independent journalist from Baghdad, Haider al-Karkhi, stated that Zaidi is one of the journalists who have nominated themselves and it isn’t surprising for him.
The political parties from the different ethnic and sectarian divides have nominated journalists among their own candidates. An example is Ahmed al-Mulla Talal, a popular TV presenter, who had competed previously in election last 2014 with Nouri al-Maliki, a former Prime Minister of Shia State of Law Coalition. Talal who actually presents the daily political program on Sharqiyya TV, runs with the party of Shia-leaning Al-Madani. Even if Talal pulled out from the election 2 months before the vote, he hosted his program and worked as a journalist while being a candidate.
He did not discuss Madani Party on his program yet he managed garnering a lot of support during his campaign outside his program. Hadee Jalo Maree, another journalist running for Shia Coalition, is known for using social media when criticizing politicians from the Al-Madani Party. On the other hand, Fatah Coalition serves as an umbrella for the groups affiliated with Shia militia groups of PMUs or known as Popular Mobilization Units that participated in war against the popular ISIS or also referred to as ISIL.