Omar Mohammed/‘Mosul Eye’ on World Press Freedom Day
What does World Press Freedom Day mean to you?
“Freedom is everything, they might give you everything but take your freedom from you, then, you have lost everything” That’s what my professor told me in my early days in college. Since then, I made sure that my freedom is protected and well-practiced.
To me, World Press Freedom Day means that there is international recognition of the importance of free word journalists, scholars and historians can say. That we feel our freedom is protected and that we feel we are heard. The moment you realise you are heard, you will value your freedom. For someone who lived under dictatorship and terrorist rule, there is nothing more important to me than freedom.
What challenges do you think COVID-19 poses to journalism?
COVID-19 has made the world of journalism more dangerous, with the amount of misinformation spread around the world. Yet, journalists have played an important role in keeping the world informed with accurate information. Their coverage of accurate and well-referenced news saved lives. However, in many countries, where freedom is at stake, many journalists faced unprecedented surveillance and oppression. The world has to make Freedom of the Press a universal value that every journalist can feel safe reporting news.
Why do you think accurately reported information is important to the public good?
Information, accurate information can save lives. I have experienced this myself during the occupation of Daesh and during the battle to liberate Mosul. Information I provided saved many lives. And now that we are recovering from the brutal rule of Daesh, information of our recovery is not only giving hope to people who suffered unimaginable trauma, but it is giving them confidence in their ability to contribute positively to building a better future.
Can you explain the importance of citizen journalists in telling the stories of their communities?
Locally based counter-terrorism initiatives are proven to have more influence and efficacy in fighting terrorism. They have the power to break the hold of Islamic State over the historical and religious narrative, which can play a significant role in the long-term fight against terrorism. When it comes to immediate threats, locally based social media outlets can provide real-time information with easily geo-located targets as well as the visual materials that can help people understand the movement of terrorism to improve prevention strategies.
What is the one pressing journalistic issue you think is crucial to highlight today?
It is important to highlight the stories of journalists who lost their lives trying to tell us the truth, but it is also important and crucial to remind the world that the more we protect freedom of press the better our world becomes. I also want to tell every citizen journalist, in Mosul and around the world that: Be confident in what you do, because your work is making a difference, and that we hear you.