Telecommunications in Iraq

Telecommunications in Iraq include radio, television, fixed and mobile telephones, and the Internet as well as the postal system.

Radio and television

Main article: Media in Iraq

The number of private radio and TV stations has increased rapidly since 2003.[1] Iraqis get much of their news from TV. Radio listening has declined in tandem with the rise of TV. For private media, advertising revenues seldom produce a reliable income.[2]

During the reign of Saddam Hussein, broadcasting was largely the domain of the Iraqi Broadcasting and Television Establishment (IBTE). The IBTE, in turn, was dominated by the Ministry of Information. The IBTE often broadcast programming favorable toward Saddam Hussein, including music videos praising him and poetry readings when the station was down. Most IBTE transmitters were in the Baghdad area with a few regional stations. The IBTE aired former CBS reporter Dan Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein, as well as the news from Baghdad Bob during the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the IBTE was dissolved.[3][4][5]

The current regulator is the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission,[6] and the public broadcaster is the Iraqi Media Network,[7] successor to the Coalition Provisional Authority's and several other radio and television stations. The Iraqi Media Network currently operates the Radio of the Republic of Iraq and the government supported al-Iraqiya TV station. Many private TV stations are also available, such as the popular Al Sharqiya. Up to 97% of homes have a satellite dish and there are more than 30 Iraq-facing satellite networks. Iraqi radio stations showcase the diversity of popular opinion, from hard-line Islamic fundamentalism to Radio Sawa, politically oriented stations, and stations featuring content appealing to Kurdish listeners. In the northern autonomous Kurdish enclaves, rival political factions operate their own media.[2]

The BBC World Service broadcasts in Iraq, as does the American Forces Network (AFN) and British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS). Other foreign radio stations operating within Iraq include the UAE's Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC), Paris-based Monte Carlo Doualiya, Moyen-Orient, and Radio France International (RFI).[2]


The 2003 Iraq War severely disrupted telecommunications throughout Iraq, including international connections. The Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO) under the U.S. State Department assisted the Iraqi Ministry of Communications by advising on the repair of switching capability and helping to devise the regulatory framework and licensing regimes for construction of mobile and satellite communications facilities. Many people and companies were involved in the reconstruction including private and public telecommunications companies from the United States, China, Turkey, and the Middle East. Special recognition must be given to the government of Japan and the World Bank group for funding the first national microwave networks. Most credit goes to the staff of the Ministry of Communications and their operating personnel, and the numerous large and small service providers, who persevere under difficult working conditions. USAID funded several IT training programs with excellent international specialists as trainers and teachers.

Today the system has undergone a remarkable transformation with high rates of annual investment and a functioning regulatory system, that is not quite independent of the political process, but still provides the framework for a competitive telecommunications regime. In 2013-2014 the system is under stress from renewed fighting between different political factions in Iraq.


Under the government of Saddam Hussein, Internet access was tightly controlled and very few people were thought to be online; in 2002 it was estimated that only 25,000 Iraqis used the Internet. With his ouster, Internet usage has become commonplace. Uruklink, originally the sole Iraqi Internet service provider, now faces competition from other ISPs, including broadband satellite Internet access services from both Middle East and European VSAT hubs. The primary military telecom service provider in Iraq is Ts 2.[16] Since 2006 several more companies have emerged to provide options to individual Iraqis that make Internet access more affordable, albeit with less bandwidth. One such business is Advanced Technology Systems-Iraq (ATS-Iraq).[17]

In January 2010, the top 5 ISPs in Iraq's capital, Baghdad, were:

Because of the reduction in usage and capability of the land line infrastructure since 2004, all Iraqi ISPs use wireless technology to provide Internet service to their customers. The Iraqi people await the repair and equipping of the country's telecommunications infrastructure to allow for land-based Internet access methods, such as Cable Internet and DSL.

Internet censorship and surveillance

In August 2009 the OpenNet Initiative found no evidence of Internet filtering in Iraq in all four of the areas for which they test (political, social, conflict/security, and Internet tools).[22]

There are no overt government restrictions on access to the Internet or official acknowledgement that the government monitors e-mail or Internet chat rooms without judicial oversight. NGOs report that the government could and was widely believed to monitor e‑mail, chat rooms, and social media sites through local Internet service providers.[23]

The constitution broadly provides for the right of free expression, provided it does not violate public order and morality or express support for the banned Baath Party or for altering the country’s borders by violent means. In practice the main limitation on individual and media exercise of these rights is self-censorship due to real fear of reprisals by the government, political parties, ethnic and sectarian forces, terrorist and extremist groups, or criminal gangs. Libel and defamation are offenses under the penal law and the 1968 Publications Law with penalties of up to seven years' imprisonment for publicly insulting the government.[23]

After the release and media amplification of the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" Internet video in September 2012, Christian groups reported an increase in death threats. One militant group called the Brigade of the Straight Path issued an ultimatum to Christians in Mosul to leave or be killed. The government provided additional security in Christian neighborhoods following the threat. There were no deaths or attacks related to the threat, and the government reduced security to normal levels by the end of 2012.[23]

The constitution mandates that authorities may not enter or search homes except with a judicial order. The constitution also prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy. In practice security forces often entered homes without search warrants and took other measures interfering with privacy, family, and correspondence.[23]

In 2011 when a documentary filmmaker and author of a prominent blog organized the video coverage of peaceful protests over the Internet via a short, nonsubscription messaging service, he was beaten on 22 April and again on 22 July, allegedly by individuals in civilian clothing linked to the security forces and by army officers as he attempted to videotape demonstrations in Tahrir Square for his blog. He went into hiding, and a few days after the second attack police searched his house. He later resumed blogging.[24]

Postal system

As part of the post-invasion social and economic infrastructure reconstruction program, a contract worth $55 million was awarded to study the postal system in Iraq. The Postal system of Iraq was organized following that study.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "Communications: Iraq", World Factbook, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 January 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 "Iraq Profile: Media", BBC News, 22 August 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  3. World Radio Television Handbook (WRTH), 1990, 2003, and 2005.
  4. MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia, out-of-print.
  5. "Saddam Music Videos", video clips from the Frontline PBS documentary the "Survival of Saddam", 25 January 2000.
  6. Iraqi Communications and Media Commission Archived August 1, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. Archived August 1, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. Dialing Procedures (International Prefix, National (Trunk) Prefix and National (Significant) Number) (in Accordance with ITY-T Recommendation E.164 (11/2010)), Annex to ITU Operational Bulletin No. 994-15.XII.2011, International Telecommunication Union (ITU, Geneva), 15 December 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  9. "Greg's Cable Map", Greg Mahlknecht, 19 December 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  10. 1 2 Calculated using penetration rate and population data from "Countries and Areas Ranked by Population: 2012", Population data, International Programs, U.S. Census Bureau, retrieved 26 June 2013
  11. "Percentage of Individuals using the Internet 2000-2012", International Telecommunications Union (Geneva), June 2013, retrieved 22 June 2013
  12. "Fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants 2012", Dynamic Report, ITU ITC EYE, International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved on 29 June 2013.
  13. "Active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants 2012", Dynamic Report, ITU ITC EYE, International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved on 29 June 2013.
  14. Select Formats, Country IP Blocks. Accessed on 2 April 2012. Note: Site is said to be updated daily.
  15. Population, The World Factbook, United States Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on 2 April 2012. Note: Data are mostly for 1 July 2012.
  16. "Satellite Broadband Internet in Iraq and Afghanistan for U.S. Troops", Press release, TS2 Satellite Technologies in PRNewswire, 22 January 2009.
  17. "Advanced Technology Systems - Iraq", website.
  19. ,
  22. "ONI Country Profile: Iraq", OpenNet Initiative, 10 August 2009
  23. 1 2 3 4 "Iraq", Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 22 April 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  24. "Iraq", Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 25 May 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
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