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Radio Free Iraq's First Broadcaster Looks Back 15 Years

Czech Republic -- Nabil Z Ahmed, Broadcaster, Radio Free Iraq, Prague, October 30, 2013.
Czech Republic -- Nabil Z Ahmed, Broadcaster, Radio Free Iraq, Prague, October 30, 2013.
On October 30, 1998, veteran journalist Nabil Ahmed had the distinction of reading the very first news bulletin broadcast on RFE/RL’s newest broadcast service, Radio Free Iraq (RFI). Times have changed dramatically for Iraqis since then, but the crucial mission of RFI has not.

Still known to his listeners by his on-air name "Nadhum Yassin,” Ahmed only began to feel safe using his given name publicly a few years ago, a testament to the perils Iraqi journalists have faced since before the fall of strongman Saddam Hussein. In addition to the news bulletins, over the last fifteen years he has reported on a variety of news stories and hosted a weekly economics program.

Before joining RFE/RL in 1998, Ahmed worked as a newspaper editor, an academic, an Information Director of Iraq’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and as an Information Consultant at UNICEF Baghdad. Perhaps most important to his future in economics reporting was his position with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

LISTEN: Nabil Ahmed speaks about the early days of RFI and its vital role today:

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Ahmed says that as many opposition radios closed their operations after the fall of Saddam, and as the security situation in Iraq again deteriorates, in part as a result of the civil war in Syria, RFI’s role today remains as important as ever.

RFI consistently leads local media in live coverage of important events such as local and national elections and protests. The service also reports on cultural and social issues other Iraqi media often ignore, such as discrimination, honor killings, domestic violence and corruption.

Perhaps most importantly, as the violence in Syria begins to spill over the border into Iraq, RFI has brought Iraqi listeners unvarnished news and analysis at a critical time in their history and that of the region.

For his part, Ahmed says the ultimate aim of his work at RFI is to “tell Iraqis the truth.”

--Emily Thompson