Iraqi social media refutes ISIL’s advance towards Baghdad

A photo of Kahrmana, one of Baghdad  main square, that has been trending

A photoshopped  image of Kahrmana monument, one of Baghdad main squares,  and “Cinderella”, that has been trending by Iraqi social media users suggesting that the city of 1001 Nights is still the birthplace of fairytales.

In response to the extensive western media coverage of the advancement of the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” towards the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, social media activists launched on Tuesday, Oct 14, a campaign to refute what some saw as mere allegations or psychological war. Over the past week, many bloggers, particularly Facebook users, who are usually very active in commenting on political and security developments,  refrained from commenting on news about ISIL gaining more grounds in Iraq and is now less than 10 miles from the capital Baghdad and its main international airport. Yet on Tuesday the number of the posts challenging such claims increased dramatically. Overall posts were overpowered by emotions with users expressing sentimentality towards the historic value of Baghdad and in many times seemed to be aiming at raising morale. A number of users adopted the usual conspiracy theory accusing the U.S as well as some  Arab media of spreading such allegation as part of a psychological  war to eventually pave the way to dividing Iraq”.

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Social media users posted photos showing different parts of Baghdad to deny media reports about ISIL presence

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Some bloggers argued that the American administration is using ISIL as tool to exhaust the Shia militias and eventually rally support to dismantle them and please its Arab Gulf allies. Others claimed the news about ISIL approaching Baghdad is a deceptive game played by ISIL to force the  Iraqi army and/or the supporting militias to move troops from provinces such as Anbar, Nineva  and Salaheldien to Baghdad. A less number of bloggers had a realistic approach warning that the western media reports  should be alerting to the Iraqi leadership as well as people. Calls for better security preparations, including the need for US ground troops, to defend the capital and stop ISIL were echoed by some who also stated that they do not think that the US will send these kind of troops.

Campaign Logo and Facebook Page (Baghdad is Fine)

Campaign Logo and Facebook Page (Baghdad is Fine)

Campaign Logo and Facebook Page However, the most popular response was characterized by a campaign titled ” بغداد_بخير# (Baghdad is good or fine).  A hashtag of the campaign Arabic title has been extensively trending on Facebook and Twitter with users posting photos and sometimes videos of different parts of Baghdad and its suburbs to refute allegations about any ISIL presence in these area. A Facebook post calling on users to share photos  of Baghdad neighborhoods and use the campaign hashtags A Facebook post calling on users to share photos of their Baghdadi neighborhoods and use the campaign hashtags

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Iraqi news agency uses “influencer marketing” to gain recognition

 

A snapshot of Why News website.

A snapshot of Why News website.

للقراءة بالعربية اضغط هنا

Iraq has been generating news headlines everywhere for more than a decade now, yet this same massive coverage has not been welcomed by many Iraqis who are gradually turning away from using the traditional media as a reliable source of news, in favor of social media.

In a country like Iraq where sectarian and political rifts continue to steer the balance of the power, news coverage has been often filtered by the agenda of the ruling political parties or even regional players who fund many of the country’s media outlets.

In their quest of unfiltered content many Iraqis have turned to social media as alternative. The past few years has witnessed the rise of several Iraqi bloggers particularly on Facebook, where 70 per cent of Iraqis have an active account.

Frustrated with the conditional freedom of the local or Arab press, some Iraqi journalists also decided to expand their message beyond the sponsor using the same platform to reach out to a wider audience.

Despite the fact that some local traditional media, newspapers or broadcasters, have started to incorporate social media, audience reaction has not changed since the content remained the same.

Yet one news agency seems to have utilized social media differently and effectively to market its content. Why News (ynewsiq.com), is a newly emerging local news agency that has garnered popularity among many Iraqis despite its relatively short life. Within less than a year the agency managed to make a buzz particularly during the recent crisis of created by the invasion of “Islamic State of Iraq and Levant” (ISIL) of Mosul and other parts of the country.

By using “influencer marketing” as a strategy, the Iraqi news agency is using both journalists and bloggers to reshape the way local media market operates.

A group of Iraq’s most influential journalists and bloggers and media analysts have been contributing to the agency’s newsgathering and content on regular basis. By leveraging these influencers the agency managed to build its credibility and expand advocacy for an independent transparent press.

The majority of the contributing writers or correspondents are offering their content for free to help reduce expenses spent on hiring staff to gather the news or analytical reports.

 

This approach also helps the agency to build its brand as a reliable news source. By virtue of the fact that these influencers are choosing to publish content on its website, they are actually signaling their approval of it.

 

Since the agency has content from a wide range of Iraqi influencers based inside and outside and from different age groups, each of whom shares his or her content with their diverse groups of followers on Facebook or Twitter, which means more people are visiting the agency website.

 

In return, the agency is offering the influencers a chance to expose their uncensored content to wider circle of audience through its website which also has build so far a significant percentage of organic visitors.

 

Much of the credit must be given to the professional young leadership of the agency for selecting the right group of influencers and managing to build and maintain a healthy transparent relationship with each one of them to ensure the flow of quality content.

 

Like many promising media projects in Iraq, the challenging aspect for an agency like Why News remains the funding. The online ads, which are usually cheaper than other media ads, bring very little revenues.

 

Despite the fact that a considerable amount of the content is produced by the influencers free of charge, the costs of maintaining the website as well as the costs of hiring technical and editorial staff remain challenging, but hopefully the fruits of their labor, which already started to pay off, will ease that problem.