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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 02:29 GMT
Radio station to help Iraqis decide
By Sebastian Usher
BBC world media correspondent

A woman walks past election posters in Iraq
The station aims to provide neutral information about candidates
A special radio programme to cover the Iraq elections produced by Iraqis and for Iraqis is being launched.

The half-hour programme called Election Radio will be available on a variety of independent, local Iraqi radio stations throughout the election period.

The project is being funded by the German government and the editorial team is based in Berlin.

Twenty Iraqi journalists have been chosen to report for Election Radio.

New generation

Only reporters under 30 were selected. The man running the project, Klaas Glenewinkel, explained why.

"We have been working with people over 30," he said, "and we found that if they are in the media, they somehow how have a problem to find their place in society, because they have been dealing so much with how to survive in a regime, and that they are not necessarily good journalists."

The journalists have just had two weeks of training in the Jordanian capital, Amman, from Western journalists.

Since returning to Iraq, they have begun gathering reports from across the country to try to give as clear and neutral a sense as they can of the main issues in the election.

Their reports are then sent on sound files via the internet to Berlin where Mr Glenewinkel and his team put the programme together in the studio of a small private media company.

Scheduled for 30 Jan
Voters to elect 275-member transitional assembly
Kurds also to pick 111-member autonomous parliament
Campaigning begins 15 Dec
230 parties running in about 80 blocs
Proportional representation based on party lists
Candidates must by over 30 and one third must be women
Militias, ex-top Baathists and current army officials barred
Balloting to take place in some 9,000 polling stations

Each half-hour includes a main item on an issue such as parties boycotting the election. There are vox pops, profiles of politicians and parties, comment by foreign election observers and a look at the campaign from a cultural angle.

Mr Glenewinkel says the aim is to help Iraqis participate fully in the election.

"They have a big mistrust in the elections due to their past, but also due to their present situation," he said.

"They don't really know what's going on, and we would like to help them to understand."

When the Berlin team has finished the programme, it is sent back to Iraq - again via the internet - to the local radio stations which broadcast it.

Negotiations are still going on to bring more stations on board.

The German government has funded the two-month-long project to the tune of around $230,000.

Mr Glenewinkel says the ultimate aim is to set up a permanent radio station in Baghdad along the lines of Election Radio, using the experience and skills gained during the project.

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