WASHINGTON -- RFE/RL's Arabic Service to Iraq, Radio Free Iraq (RFI) will air its final broadcast on July 31. The resources of RFI will be merged with Radio Sawa Iraq to provide the audience with extensive Iraq-specific news and informational programming. The new Radio Sawa Iraq programming will be broadcast on both its existing frequency and those of RFI during a period of transition.
In recognition of their service, BBG Chairman Jeffrey Shell presented letters of appreciation to RFI colleagues, noting that, "[Radio Free Iraq's] coverage of all sides of Iraq's political scene has been unparalleled and deeply appreciated by its audience, as has its coverage of news from throughout the country with its wide network of regional correspondents. Iraqi decision makers have considered RFI a must listen or read in their daily news diet while Iraqi citizens have expressed gratitude to RFI for providing a platform for them to raise their voices and concerns."
RFE/RL Editor-in-Chief Nenad Pejic paid tribute to the sacrifices made by RFI colleagues to deliver the news in a country riven by constant political turmoil, violence, and war. A bomb blast at the AlHamra Hotel in Baghdad in 2005 ripped apart the Service's bureau, two correspondents - Khamail Muhsin Khalaf and Nazar Abdulwahid al-Radhi - were murdered in 2007, and RFI Baghdad Bureau chief Dr. Muhammad Bdaiwi Owaid al-Shammari was shot dead at a checkpoint in 2014 while on his way to work. RFI correspondents have also suffered kidnappings, death threats, harassment, and physical injury while reporting the news.
In remarks to RFI staff members, Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) President Brian Conniff said that, "At this moment in history, when Iraq is threatened by an extremist Islamic insurgency and faces numerous challenges in rebuilding from decades of open warfare and authoritarian rule, we believe adding RFI's signature programming to the Radio Sawa Iraq lineup will provide the audience high quality content that will enhance their listening experience." MBN manages and oversees Radio Sawa.
Radio Free Iraq was created by RFE/RL in 1998, in response to direction from the U.S. Congress. Led first by former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq David Newton, and since 2004 by journalist Sergei Danilochkin, it has provided accurate and non-sectarian news and information to local audiences and fostered informed debate of issues that are not otherwise reported in Iraq's ethnically, politically and religiously fragmented media.