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Director of Iraqi Kurdish Zagros TV explains his policies

BBC Monitoring

Text of interview by Bewar Chomani from Arbil entitled: "Zagros TV director: To date, nobody has voiced any complaints about our programmes, and nobody has interfered in our affairs"; published by independent Iraqi Kurdish newspaper Hawlati on 6 January

In an exclusive interview, Zagros TV Satellite Channel Dr Niyaz Lajani talked to Hawlati about the state of the media in Kurdistan in general, the draft law of journalistic work, Zagros Channel and media problems.

Hawlati: How do you find Kurdish media?

Niyaz Lajani: The media, in general, and journalistic work are new things in Kurdistan. Undoubtedly the media flourish in free conditions, but in our country, what has existed was dull and insipid media. Even the controlling master nation - that is, the Iraqi media - was extremely backward with regard to their television and radio. What has existed in Kurdistan cannot be better than the media of the master nation.

The media that existed during the mountain struggle was only a resistance media, exclusively for propaganda against the regime. Journalism started after the uprising [1991] in Kurdistan and for 10 years it was overwhelmed with unpleasant conditions and a series of hard stages, which was ! an obstacle in the way of free journalism. However, after 2000, the appearance of a number of independent newspapers and several satellite channels was a remarkable and positive step. But the dearth of media and journalistic experience makes it difficult to achieve what people want in a short time. We should have a strategic plan to develop the media in Kurdistan.

Hawlati: From your words, it appears that academic media in Kurdistan are poor.

Niyaz Lajani: Regrettably, all academies in Kurdistan are weak. For example, currently the level of education in Kurdistan is shallow. Therefore, journalism in Kurdistan will also become poor. We should not feel ashamed. Why is importing all goods from abroad an ordinary thing? We should also bring people from abroad so as to create strong academies that will create robust journalists.

Hawlati: How do you evaluate the existence of all those local channels?

Niyaz Lajani: Indeed, this is extremely bad and it will ! have threatening repercussions on the Kurdish media. Media channels al l over the world have to abide by a certain norm because, just as a vehicle has to meet certain requirements, a channel that is newly opened must have a number of characteristics, particularly technically speaking. When I watch certain programmes, I feel ashamed because they convey a dark and unpleasant atmosphere. I do not want to insult any channel. There are certain programmes that are impediments in the way of the community's progress. Regrettably, some of these programmes are seen on the satellite channels, too.

Hawlati: How are they an impediment in the way of progress?

Niyaz Lajani: They are impediments by broadcasting obsolete ideologies and they pride themselves on a number of things that are obstacles to the progress of the community. Some programmes that lack constructive contents in some of those channels are obstacles before successful media. The media should serve the community and not ruin it. Well, if the media cannot bring about change, who can? ! We are not living on an island, to wish to separate ourselves. We are part of this world, part of the change that is in full swing. To make the national cause move forwards, the people should also make progress.

Hawlati: What made Zagros attain the first grade twice?

Niyaz Lajani: We have specified our own programme. We are a 100 per cent Kurdish channel and we are at the service of the Kurdish question. We are adopting a progressive course. It is a good thing to start the progressive process and to start from the youths. We have a group of cadres who have returned from Europe. They have great proficiency in the field of the media.

Hawlati: How many employees work in Zagros?

Niyaz Lajani: About 250 employees work in it, from all the cities of Kurdistan and abroad.

Hawlati: How much are the earnings of Zagros TV?

Niyaz Lajani: It is good. We receive financial aid from the Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP], as a budget. However, it is not en! ough to live on. Our main proceeds consist of two sources: the first i s the advertisements, which are a good source of income, and the second is a number of programmes that some companies produce for us.

Hawlati: It is said that many employees at the Zagros are fired. How far is this true?

Niyaz Lajani: No. I do not think to date that five cadres have been fired. Some cadres have been transferred to other places. Others had contracts. When their contract ended, we did not renew it.

Hawlati: Do you consider yourselves affiliated to the KDP?

Niyaz Lajani: Undoubtedly we are working within the framework of the KDP's strategy. Meanwhile, we are free in our work. So far, no one at a high level within the KDP has had any complaints about our programmes, and nobody has interfered in our work.

Hawlati: In your view, to what extent have the media advanced?

Niyaz Lajani: In media work two things are very important: first, good cadres and second, technique.

Hawlati: How do you assess the draft journalism law?


Niyaz Lajani: Regrettably, we do not have a draft journalism law in Kurdistan to date and, regarding the law that I have read, I do not know what kind of mentality has written this. One of the points is that it has only mentioned journalists. Well, are those who work for the media not journalists? It mentions how newspapers are published. Well, what about the television? It has many shortcomings. Regrettably, no one consulted us and a very classical mentality has drawn this up. To my mind, he has copied down the law of a dictatorial country and brought it to us.

Hawlati: What are your proceeds from advertisements?

Niyaz Lajani: Eighty percent of our budget comes from advertisements.

Hawlati: You said that you are a free channel, but you are linked to a party's system. How does freedom form in between?

Niyaz Lajani: When I say a free media, I mean a free ideology. Financially speaking, we are about to become free, and gradually, different and indep! endent ideas are broadcast in it. Political directives have grown very weak and freedom is a condition for success.

Hawlati: How do you evaluate Kurdish journalism?

Niyaz Lajani: Kurdish journalism appears to be rich in quantity but poor in content. Still, it must exist.

Hawlati: How is your coordination with the KDP media centre? Do they send you work directives?

Niyaz Lajani: No.

Hawlati: What is the best Kurdish newspaper?

Niyaz Lajani: Hawlati, Awene and Media are very good.

Hawlati: You are very rarely seen on TV. Why?

Niyaz Lajani: I appear if it is necessary. Otherwise, why should I appear? I should not monopolize the TV screen just because I am the director. Everyone should appear on it.

Hawlati: How do you assess those sites where sexual acts are perpetrated through the media? How do you interpret that?

Niyaz Lajani: We categorically never allow this in any way. Whoever inside Zagros intends to do such things will incur the most grievous punishment from me. To date, nothing o! f that sort has happened in Zagros.

In brief: Niyaz Lajani was born in Tayrawa district in the city of Arbil in 1962. In 1985 he became a KDP peshmerga. Later, with the help of the KDP, he headed towards the then Soviet Union. There, at the St Petersburg University, he obtained an MA in Media and a PHD in history. At present he is the director of Zagros Media Channel.

Source: Hawlati, Sulaymaniyah, in Sorani Kurdish 6 Jan 08 p4



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