With my eyes half-closed I tried to find the aircon remote control on my bedside table. Two days ago I woke up in a hotel room in Rotterdam not knowing where I was, but this morning I knew exactly where I was. It was six o’clock and my room was hot because the aircon had timed out following a power cut. I’m in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish semi-autonomous region in North Iraq. Power cuts are here a daily fact of life, especially at night. And as it’s getting hotter and hotter –at the moment it’s not too bad at a temperature of 40 degrees Celcius, but in August it get’s over 50 degrees on this plain surrounded by mountains- the power cuts will increase as the grid’s capacity will be stretched beyond its limits.
I’m in Iraq to teach local journalists, Kurds, how to write independent, fair and accurate news stories, how to think and live as an independent journalist and to write stories about the concerns of the people instead of just writing stories about what some political figure head has been saying, in other words citizen journalism to use a media buzz word, while I’m telling my journalists to avoid any jargon. Teaching journalism makes me very self-conscious about my own writing.
I’m working at AK News (if you’re interested, the website www.aknews.com offers a selection of stories in English), the first news wire focussing entirely on this part of the world. In a region where independent news is a rarity, everything is political and where people haven’t enjoyed a solid education, building a news wire according international news standards is quite an enterprise. The Independent Media Centre Kurdistan (www.imck.blogspot.com) is organizing regularly training courses, supporting AK News wherever it can. And that’s why I’m here again after earlier trips in August and November of last year in the run up to the agency’s launch.