Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2011

Iraq's News Media After Saddam: Liberation, Repression, and Future Prospects

Sherry Ricchiardi

March 2011

National Endowment for Democracy


After the ouster of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, Iraq’s tightly controlled state-run media underwent a transformation on two fronts: one driven by the Americans who made establishing a free press a priority; the other by an Iraqi citizenry that for three decades had been cut off from the free marketplace of ideas under a tyrannical regime. Overnight, Iraq’s media landscape blossomed into one of the most diverse and unfettered press environments in the Middle East. Privately owned news outlets grew from zero to more than 200 in a rush to meet demands for uncensored information. And despite formidable chaos over press freedom, Iraqi citizens suddenly had access to a varied menu of information unimaginable under Saddam Hussein. Satellite dishes, banned under the Baathists, flew off the shelves. Iraqis, once limited to government-run broadcasting and five newspapers, suddenly had access to a smorgasbord of news from CNN and Qatar-based al-Jazeera to dozens of publications and television channels springing up in their hometowns.