Community Cohesion through Community Media


Iraq’s communities treat each other with suspicion. Despite power-sharing political agreements, the threat of Iraq’s disintegration remains high. Sunni communities feel disenfranchised and marginalised, while Kurds are perceived to be using the chaos to gain politically and economically. The Shia are becoming more resentful of both Kurds and Sunnis. The suspicions and the hard-done-by mentality on all sides are being exploited for narrow political gains in the fragile democracy of Iraq.


Iraq’s fragility has resonated in regional and global politics. If it is to hold on to the territorial defeat of IS, the country must function better - its communities need to more resilient to sectarian and extremist narratives. While the government of Iraq says it is attempting to work towards an inclusive political solution, this task is made all the more difficult by the many demands and disgruntled community voices that are filling the media space and fuelling separatist agendas.


Against the background described above, it is vital that local media is bolstered so that it can tackle a variety of issues that originate from and/or affect its community. This includes accountability in central and local governments (an issue that has been at the forefront of Iraq’s future as a democracy since August 2015), sectarian narratives, internally displaced people and cross-border migration, economic development, human rights and the presence of IS. Iraq needs assistance in facilitating the development of the sort of content that would be effective in:


  • Creating a sense of community cohesion through cross-community organic media outlets.
  • Encouraging improved accountability of central and local government.
  • Improving the flow of accurate information from the government and security forces to the whole of the population, and especially to disenfranchised communities.
  • Countering rumours in an engaging manner and with the use of credible local voices.


Theory of change

If new space for a more constructive dialogue between the government and citizens, and across the divided communities, is created and sustained, then the government of Iraq may be able to communicate its national plans more effectively, secure buy-in, and ensure that it is (and is seen to be) more responsive and fair to all communities.


Similarly, if through this dialogue, citizens are able to make officials more accountable, then they are more likely to have faith in a shared future and demonstrate greater tolerance as part of a solution that benefits all citizens from all communities.


The action

BBC Media Action pulled together a project designed to take advantage of previous investments over the last 12 years, empowering local actors, providing good value for money, and reducing risks in implementation. Under this project, BBC Media Action is working with two Iraqi radio stations:


  • Radio Al Mirbad, operating from Basra, with a reach across the Shia heartland of the southern provinces.
  • Radio Nawa, operating from Suleimaniya, with a rech across the whole of Iraq, but with specific attention on the western disenfranchised provinces and areas retrieved from IS.


The project’s overall objective is to secure ‘supported, improved and trusted local media platforms and content, through which Iraqis can engage more effectively in dialogue with local and central government, access accurate information, and be more resilient in the face of divisive rumours and sectarian narratives’.


EU Contribution

EUR 4.9 million




Iraq wide - radio stations transmitting from Basra and Sulaymaniah.


The Iraqi population

Implementing partner

BBC Media Action

Funding Instrument

Development and Cooperation Instrument