Last month, Radio Al Mirbad celebrated its seventh anniversary: quite an achievement for an independent radio station in Iraq. Founded in 2005 in Basra, Al Mirbad has seen its audience through their first post-Saddam elections, days of militia control, political assassinations and sectarian violence. It has forged a strong bond with the local community.
Al Mirbad was set up by BBC Media Action as a television and radio station, but threats to staff at the height of the sectarian strife in 2007 forced television production off air. The radio programming has gone on, and has gone from strength to strength. With funding from the US State Department and the support of BBC Media Action, Al Mirbad is now expanding. Just before its anniversary, three new transmitters were installed which brought all major urban areas in southern Iraq, populated by almost ten million people, within its reach.
This expansion allows the station to reach areas that have, up until now, only had access to either state-run or highly partisan radio programming. Al Mirbad’s reputation for holding officials to account through its reporting has preceded it. At a meeting of the provincial council in Kut in eastern Iraq (newly covered by Al Mirbad), a reporter told officials to “be prepared for the storm coming your way”. Tackling Iraq’s culture of impunity for officials and allowing citizens to voice their opinions and concerns is a key focus for Al Mirbad and one that we hope will bring positive changes to the lives of people in its new coverage areas.
(Source : BBC Media Action Blog)