Iraqi press baron

Fighting the good fight

With all the bad news coming out of Iraq concerning the increasing death toll of Iraqi journalists and the restrictions placed on the media by the Iraqi government, there are still some glimmers of hope.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Sam Dagher filed a cautiously upbeat report this morning about Fakhri Karim, owner of the Baghdad-based Al-Mada newspaper which is, according to Dagher, “considered the country’s most professional” paper.

While so much of what we hear from Iraq pertains to violent—or at least virulent—sectarianism, Karim is actively promoting the healing of these rifts by appeals to Iraqi’s shared nationalism and culture, trying to “change the mood of Iraqis through cultural and educational events to demonstrate that there is still hope despite the daily bloodshed…He says that he wants to prove to the current political elite that the polarization of Iraqis - and their embrace of hard-line Islamic movements - is only a temporary self-protection phenomenon following the immense void left in the wake Saddam Hussein’s regime.”

While Karim is doing good work, the guy is no saint. Dagher writes that while in exile in Syria (he left Iraq in 1978, and came back in 2003), he forged “strong ties” with Palestinian guerillas based in Lebanon. That could mean many different things, but few of them good. Regardless, the history of Iraq being what it is there are few prominent figures there with squeaky-clean resumes. Karim is a reason to hope, on some level, that some of Iraq’s leaders truly desire peace—and the fact that this particular leader is a private citizen, and controls a respected newspaper, can’t hurt.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.