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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Media Coverage of Religious Diversity and Freedoms: Iraq – Lebanon – Sudan

Monday , 08 May 2023
Design: Mahmoud Younis

Monitoring and analysing the media coverage of religious diversity in countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Sudan, which all suffer from varying degrees of political instability, is a major challenge. In conflicts, politicians perceive most religious events as an opportunity to express their views and convey their messages to foster their interests at the expense of others. Media outlets are either used openly and directly, as is the case in Iraq, or in a smart and indirect way, as in Lebanon, where the media appears, on the surface, independent of political tensions or ahead of official positions. The media platform tackles the religious subject in a way that matches the position of the political party it represents before the latter expresses its opinion. Therefore, several media outlets play the role of a postman, announcing the position of the political party they represent or receive funds from.

The above situation highlights the political and media reality in Lebanon and Iraq. Sudan seems far from the complexities of this experience, both in terms of the form and tools of journalistic work and the overall media reality, which are considered modest compared to the Lebanese and Iraqi experiences. However, if the Sudanese experience differs from the other two, this does not mean that there is no political conflict, and that religion is not used as a platform to express views. In Sudan, the political and media conflict experience is different. The media is still heavily governed by the centralisation of power, even when it comes to independent media institutions. Historically, this centralisation may be directly caused by the presence of the military institution on the Sudanese political scene, even after the popular uprising that led to the overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir in the spring of 2019. He was overthrown in a military coup following civil unrest. However, the political and media conflict over power remained between conservative and less conservative leaders, not between different sects or religions within the ruling entity or competing political parties.

This quantitative and qualitative study aims to review the way local media outlets deal and interact with religious issues in Iraq, Lebanon, and Sudan by monitoring the coverage of events related to religious diversity by the most prominent media platforms in these countries.

It is built upon the findings of five reports previously published by the Samir Kassir Foundation:

The Lebanese Media Coverage of Father Mansour Labaky’s Prison Sentence
Sudanese Media Coverage of Kassala Fires
The Media and Social Media Debate around the Call for the Demolition of Shiite Religious Shrines in Iraq
Commemorating Ashura Day at Al-Madina Theatre in the Lebanese Media
Sudanese Media Coverage: Banning the Abaya at Wad Madani Faculty of Medicine

This report is part of the Samir Kassir Foundation's involvement in ENQUIRE (Enhancing Quality Information on Religious Freedoms), a regional program that aims to promote a culture of respect for religious diversity in MENA countries where religious freedom is facing challenges. ENQUIRE focuses on strengthening the capacity of journalists to securely produce and disseminate high-quality, conflict-sensitive, and inclusive content on key religious freedom issues.

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