TABEIR Project

Awarded: December 2013

Completion: November 2015

The Technological Advance to Bolster Freedom of Expression in Iraq (TABEIR, or “expression” in Arabic) was a 24 month initiative aiming to promote democracy and protect freedom of expression (FOE) by empowering civic actors to become agents for change. The project began in December of 2013 and was completed in November of 2015. It was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

TABEIR aims to promote democracy and protect freedom of expression by empowering civic actors to become agents for change. The project has enabled journalists and activitists to use advanced communication technologies to identify, document, and report on freedom of expression through targeted trainings based on assessment of their needs. It has established a network of NGOs to operate a data retrieval system compiling information on freedom of expression violations. And finally, TABEIR empowers freedom of expression advocates by supporting advocacy initiatives and awareness-raising efforts.

Project objectives and progress are elaborated below:

 

Objective 1:

Journalists and activists are able to use more advanced communication technologies and make better use of media to identify, document, and report on violations of freedom of expression

5-day Training of Trainers (TOT);
Session at the 5-day TOT Training

Session at the 5-day TOT Training

IF’s first goal was to build NGO capacity by molding NGO staff into journalism and advocacy instructors through a specialized training workshop. The TOT ran from April 10-15, 2014 in Tangram Hotel (Erbil, Iraq). It was covered by two media channels, including the Ho’na Baghdad satellite channel and the KRG satellite channel.

The training focused on utilizing technology, leveraging the impact of social media to disseminate information, improving visual narrative techniques, timing media releases, and the effective use of advanced media tools to meet international documentation standards. In addition, trainings covered safe and secure reporting tools and techniques, and impactful FOE advocacy.

Partner NGO Cascade Trainings;

“I always wanted to work in journalism but I had no idea how to start. The trainings gave me the qualifications, the knowledge, and the experience to safely make an interview and, most importantly, the passion to get out there and go for it.  The training was intense, but worth the effort. Thanks so much.”

Miss. Rafah Hussien, a civil society activist from Babil

Due to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the country faces a paucity of trained professionals in journalism. The cascade trainings launched by IF’s newly trained partners were designed to help remedy this and build capacity for activists courageous enough to continue their work in Iraq. IF’s partners held thirty trainings, and by the end of August, the total number of program beneficiaries had climbed to 728 citizen journalists and NGO members across Iraq (see Table 1 below).

These courses were offered by partner NGOs free of charge. All participants completed an application and underwent a thorough vetting process to ensure that their intentions aligned with the goals of the training– namely the use of new skills for the protection of FOE.

The in-country training sought to promote the use of new media and technology as a fundamental tool in changing the way the media works and how information is obtained and produced. The trainings included topics covered by ICFJ during the 5-day TOT and made use of materials provided to NGOs by ICFJ which focused on Personal Safety (Avoidance, Deterrence, and Escape Training for Assault-Risk Environments), detailed technological instruction, impactful use of social media, improved visual narratives, and employing advanced media tools for documentation in an effective and timely manner.

Province TrainingsTrainings attended by IFMale ParticipantsFemale ParticipantsTotal
Baghdad ( two training centers) 8810150151
Babil416753120
Kut41682896
Missan31581876
Basrah416352115
Diyala40584098
Erbil31413172
Totals3013456272728

Objective 2:

To form a collaborative network of NGOs that pool their efforts to defend and protect FOE and an enhanced and cost-effective data retrieval system, made available to the public, that will provide access to data on the status of Iraq’s public sphere and improve Iraqis’ ability to advocate in a more targeted manner.

First Stakeholder Meeting:

At this first meeting IF established its 10 Iraqi partners based on their past experience with FOE initiatives. During the meeting, these NGOs formed a nation-wide collaborative network to strengthen their advocacy. IF and its partners also discussed what needs were most important to address in the 5-day TOT in order to best tailor it to their needs. This included gender-specific needs and challenges faced by women in the field. The discussion led to the development of a customized training agenda that addressed gender-specific concerns, particularly a physical protection course sensitive to the very different kinds of threats posed to men and women.

Partner NGOs included:

  1. Protection and Development of Iraqi Family Association (Ninawa)
  2. Organization of Journalists and Intellectuals Independent Youth (Maysan)
  3. Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association (Baghdad)
  4. Akad Cultural Institute (Babil)
  5. Public Aid Organization (Erbil)
  6. Arabic Youth Organization (Basra)
  7. Journalist Without Borders Organization (Baghdad)
  8. Democratic Women Organization (Wasit)
  9. Al Noor Universal Foundation (Diyala)
  10. Al Tadhamun Iraqi League  for Youth (Anbar)

(Note: The deteriorating security crisis in Iraq prohibited project implementation in Ninewa and Anbar and caused major delays in the Daiyala training. As a result, IF relocated the trainings– Dohuk trainers, for example, took in Ninewan trainees who met project criteria.)

Second Stakeholder Meeting:

On May 31st, 2014, IF conducted the 2nd periodic meeting at the IF Baghdad headquarters in Karada. Participants discussed the training manual used in the TOT. Attendees also discussed the training agenda, program reporting, and what topic the first program bulletin should cover. Finally, the meeting gathered the network’s feedback on the FOE map (website) developed by ICFJ and identified their priorities with regard to which violations should be tracked.

Database:
tabr2

Screen-cap of the TABEIR website’s main interface

IF contracted ICFJ to create and manage a public database for recording, reporting, and preserving data on rights violations against activists, journalists, human rights organizations, and others in Iraq. It has been used to enhance TABEIR partners’ documentation and reporting capabilities. Furthermore, IF has assigned dedicated staff to review and verify reports uploaded to the map and to update the web-based database. It classifies reported offenses as physical attacks( killings, arrests, kidnappings, beatings, or attacks to an organization); psychological attacks( prevention from work, verbal attacks, defamation campaigns, forced coverage); legal attacks (arrests, legal harassment, etc.); or digital attacks (theft or destruction of files, cyber-attacks, penetration of accounts, defacement, distributed denials of service). The platform also disaggregates data according to victims’ gender and profession ( journalist, blogger, citizen, or human rights defender)

Objective 3 (Pending):

FOE defenders are better able to effect change through advocacy initiatives aimed at influencing public opinion and policy makers and pressing for reforms

IF also held a competition for 25 small grant programs to advance FOE in Iraq. Grants were awarded in April; however, IF is still evaluating the impact of this phase of the project.

Last Update: September 6, 2016.