It is over ten years since US-led forces toppled the regime led by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Following those events in 2003, the country was supposed to transition into peaceful democracy, where the Iraqi people were able to express their opinions freely and vote for their own leaders.

US forces left Iraq in late 2011 and after three general elections – the third held in April 2014 - it is hard to say whether this goal has been achieved. Or, indeed, whether it is even on the way to being achieved. Optimists might suggest that in some areas Iraqi politics are now finally moving beyond self-interested sectarian, ethnic and tribal allegiances and voters are beginning to make decisions based politics and policies. They take that - along with Iraq’s increasing oil and gas output and therefore increased income - as a sign of better things to come. Pessimists focus on ongoing levels of violence in the country and the kinds of sectarian polarization that still clearly exist. Doubtless the answer lies somewhere between those two viewpoints.

Media in Iraq: It is now possible to publish dissenting opinions in Iraq and to openly criticise the government. The media landscape is a diverse and pluralistic one, there is also a wide variety of local and international media and the Internet is also freely available. However journalists in Iraq still face many dangers. In particular, in some parts of Iraq they are being deliberately targeted by religious extremists like Al Qaeda.

Additionally as the Iraqi government has started to behave in a more authoritarian manner over the past couple of years, it has also started to try to control or stifle critical voices. However, at this stage, it would be nigh on impossible to prevent these altogether or to rein in the diversity of media here.

MICT has been active in Iraq since 2004 and the organisation established offices in Baghdad and Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2011. MICT’s presence in Iraq includes the high profile Media Academy Iraq, which offers professional training and management consulting for Iraqi media producers – clients include some of Iraq’s most popular television stations as well as smaller media start-ups.