Iraq: Bullets and Ballots


Next week’s Iraqi election won’t look much like the American model, with armed guards instead of exit polls, anonymous candidates, and unique challenges for the press.

“This is a very tough thing to cover,” says Newsday foreign editor Roy Gutman, citing Iraq’s complex voting system, the size of the country, and the danger there. “We’d like to be everywhere, but we’re only going to be a very few places.” Gutman will dispatch reporters to Baghdad and Kurdistan, while a third (plus a photographer) embeds with a military unit. Their focus will be on who’s not voting as much as who is.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a London-based nonprofit that trains journalists in trouble spots, will try to avoid the security angle and focus on the electoral contest itself.

“The politics of the election will be ignored by the international media because they will be so focused on the security situation,” said Hiwa Osman, an Iraqi and former BBC reporter who coordinates the Iraq mission for IWPR. “We will try to go beyond that.”

While Dan Rather, for example, tours the “Triangle of Death” with a marine unit, Osman says IWPR’s 30 reporters will visit every city in the country, including those that escape the attention of the international media because they are too dangerous or, paradoxically, too quiet.

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