The 27-year-old Sahab gives a long laugh: “The Iraqi government doesn’t bother me when I publish news and facts about the situation in Iraq in my blog.”
“I write under a pseudonym so no one knows my real identity,” he says, explaining this choice: “If the government finds out who I am, it will start to follow me and restrict me.”
Sahab’s smile is filled with hope when he adds: “I know it’s dangerous to write but it’s important to document the suffering of the people and help them by letting others know the truth. I don’t want the crimes that happened in my country to be forgotten.”
Sahab launched his blog Shelters of death in March 2008. “I receive 50 visitors per day and a lot of comments,” he says.
The media landscape in Iraq, strictly controlled under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein, started recovering and opening up after his fall from power in 2003, with the gradual establishment of 52 radio stations, 47 televisions stations and 160 newspapers and an increasing activity in the blogosphere and social media networks.
Blog or Facebook?
Nevertheless, although Iraq now describes itself as a democratic country, many bloggers express concern that they are being monitored by government agencies.
Rusul Kamel, a 24-year old Iraqi activist and blogger writes human rights issues in the capital Baghdad: “I write everything in my blog, but I’m afraid to criticise the government because I have heard of many arrests among bloggers and I’ve been told of the government’s control of all that is published. I do not know how truthful this information is but to be on the safe side sometimes I publish my writing on my Facebook page because I trust that my friends will not betray me.”
Kamel started blogging in 2010 after meeting a group of young people who introduced her to the practice. “My blog is the place to express myself and circle all the concerns that I’ve been having and that many young people like me are facing,” she says.
“Every citizen is an observer,” she continues.” When my attention is drawn to a particular issue, I write about it in order to rally public opinion. A journalist can also be a blogger. I find that many journalists keep private blogs, because blogging gives the freedom to write without being restricted by media organisations’ rules.”