Three female Iraqi journalists answer questions from students.

Situation for Journalists in Iraq Improving, Six Journalists Say in Visit to Grady College

While the situation for journalists is improving in Iraq, six working reporters and editors from that country told students and faculty at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in April that their occupation is still a dangerous one.

“Our country has made progress,” one of the Iraqi guests said, “but the road to normalization is still long. There was a time when I could not leave the radio station for months, because my life was in danger all the time. Now, it is better, but being a journalist in Iraq today still is risky.”

For more than one hour, the journalists joined 25 students and faculty on April 13 in a roundtable discussion about media practices and about how audiences in the two countries perceive the military, social and political situation in Iraq.

“My family tried to persuade me to give up my job and my career as a journalist,” another Iraqi visitor said. “They said I should pick something that’s safer. But now they tell me that they are proud when they hear my voice on the radio.”

When asked by the journalists what American young people think about the situation in Iraq, one UGA student answered: “We are concerned about our military’s safety. We all have friends there. They are our age. We are proud of what they are doing, but we want them to be safe.”

The six journalists, accompanied by three interpreters, were visiting the Grady College as part of a program sponsored by the United States Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program.

They were: Imad al-Taie, Al-Iraqia TV and Radio Station; Ahmed Hasan Ahmed, Baghdadiyeh TV,; Samar Al-Ali, Al-Fayhaa TV Station; Dr. Asifa Al-Fanherawy, Radio Free Iraq; Rafed Al-Tameemi, Hathara Radio and TV; and Abeer Al-Timeeni, Al-Hathara TV.

Three male Iraqi journalists participating in the session.

The goals of the program were to give the Iraqi guests the opportunity to observe practices, standards and institutions of broadcast media in the U.S. and to gain insights into the social, economic and political structures of the U.S.

During the visit the journalists also were to examine key domestic issues affecting U.S. foreign policy and bi-lateral relations with Iraq and the Middle East.

The visitors' schedule also included stops in New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco and Washington DC.

In Georgia, the program of the group was coordinated by the Georgia Council for International Visitors, while the visit at the University of Georgia was organized by the James M. Cox Center for International Mas Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College.

Drs. Lee B. Becker and Tudor Vlad, director and associate director of the Cox Center, welcomed the guests and described the international programs conducted by the Center.

"We are honored to have you here in the Grady College today and we wish you had more time to spend with us," Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the Cox Center, told the Iraqi guests.

As part of the program, Dr. Vlad gave a brief presentation of journalism education in the United States, explaining how the Grady College operates and comparing it with other journalism programs in the country.

Dr. Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards Program, also a part of the Grady College, told the visitors about the operation of the Awards program and its value to broadcast journalists.

Iraqi journalists participate in session while Dr. Becker moderates.

"We are an international program," he said. "This year, for example, the local television in the province of Sichuan, China, received an award for the coverage of the earthquake. We have not received anything from Iraq yet, and very little from the Middle East.”

The Iraqi journalists had a meeting with Dr. Kent Middleton, head of the Journalism Department. Dr. Middleton spoke about journalists’ access to information in the United States and gave the visitors a copy of the seventh edition of his book The Law of Public Communication.

The guests had lunch with Grady College professors Jennifer Smith, Lee Becker and Barry Hollander and with Cox Center administrative specialist Melanie Zuñiga. Next they toured the broadcast facilities of the college accompanied by Cecil Bentley, director for corporate relations.

“We are glad to have you as guests,” said Dr. E. Culpepper Clark, dean of the Grady College. “Our university has tried to internationalize its programs not only by sending students to study abroad, but also by inviting foreign scholars and experts here on campus.”