With support from DRL, the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) supports media development and capacity building in Iraq by implementing training and technical assistance initiatives that develop professionalism, sustainability, and editorial independence of Iraqi media. In July 2008, IREX was selected by the Culture and Media Committee of the Kurdistan Parliament, along with three other media law experts, to form a media law advisory committee to strengthen the draft Kurdish Press Law and provide greater protection to journalists in the region.
On September 22, 2008, the Kurdistan Parliament ratified Kurdistan Press Law No.35 with amendments that were proposed by IREX and the advisory committee. In its final form, the law was the first of its kind as it prohibits the imprisonment of journalists, reversing a practice previously allowed under Ba’ath era codes, and prohibits the closure or suspension of newspapers by the government. Additionally, some of the loosely defined provisions in previous codes, such as punishment of journalists for articles opposing “national security” or “common values,” were eliminated. The passage of this important piece of legislation marked the culmination of an intense public information campaign led by IREX to advocate for improved media protection under this law. It also marked a major victory for local journalists in Kurdistan.
Beginning in January 2008, IREX began its work with the Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association (IJRDA) to provide pro-bono media law attorneys to Iraqi journalists accused of defamation, libel, or slander. To date, twelve cases have been accepted by IJRDA, resulting in the acquittal of six journalists. The remaining six cases are still pending. With IREX support, the IJRDA project has produced several important precedents against frivolous lawsuits filed against journalists in Iraq.