Syriacs Celebrate their 173th Journalism Day

Under the patronage of the General Directorate of Syriac Culture and Arts in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, the General Union of Syriac Writers and Authors held a celebration on the occasion of the Syriac Journalism Day, the 173rd anniversary of the birth of the first Syriac newspaper Zahrire d-Bahra, on Tuesday 1 November 2022, at the Hyksos Hotel in Ankawa.

The ceremony’s media program was moderated by Delaram Boya, beginning with a minute of silence in memory of the martyrs of the Syriac press and of free speech. This was followed by a message from the Union of Syriac Writers and Authors, delivered by its president Rawand Paulus. He began by quoting author malfono Na‘um Fa’iq, who said: “Newspapers are the mouthpiece of peoples; every people is known for its newspapers, and a nation that does not have newspapers is a mute, deaf and inert one.” He added that: “In order for us to be an active, living and speaking nation, our Syriac press must be promoted.”

This was followed by a message from the General Directorate of Syriac Culture and Arts, delivered by Director General Kaldo Ramzi Oghanna. In it, he pointed out that our Syriac press is older than that of our neighbors, namely the newspapers al-Zawra’ and Kurdistan, and its nobility and leadership are a source of our pride. We must bow before their sacrifices, especially its first martyrs such as Ashour Yoosuf, and all the pioneers of the Syriac press, such as Farid Nuzha and Benjamin Labaree. He stressed that the press does not flourish without freedom of thought and opinion and, today, as a government department, it is our duty to affirm that the government’s message is to respect freedom of opinion and other points of view. He also pointed out that the directorate’s doors are open for everyone to cooperate at various levels, stressing also the importance of working to invest modern technologies in communicating opinions and activating the role of our press worldwide, not only at the national level. This we emphasized in the recommendations of the Syriac Media Conference, which was organized by our directorate.

Meanwhile, Azad Hama Amin, head of the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, congratulated Syriac journalists on their journalism day. He noted that we celebrate this occasion annually and work to provide the best for all journalists in the region by activating laws that guarantee freedom of expression and their rights. After that, a telegram was read from the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, congratulating the occasion. In it, the Syndicate’s head Muayad al-Lami wished the Syriac press success, progress and prosperity, as well as for it to remain an honest and developed model and example to follow.

Following this, a short film about Syriac journalism, prepared by the General Directorate of Syriac Culture and Arts and directed by Ragheed Ninwaya, was shown. It dealt with the journey of the Syriac press, noting that: “if we consider the clay tablets on which the ancient Mesopotamians wrote their news, diaries, achievements and victories, especially the cuneiform texts that the Assyrian kings used to write down and included their names, civilizational achievements, and military campaigns, also known as ‘the Assyrian Annals,’ the first journalism was already known to our ancestors thousands of years ago; this was long before the emergence of al-Zawra’ in 1869 and Kurdistan in 1898, which were our neighbors’ first newspapers.”

This was followed by a dialogue session moderated by the journalist Nimrod Qasha, which dealt with the following topics: “The Experience of the Syriac Section of the Iraqi Scientific Council Magazine” by writer Akkad Murad, “Banipal Magazine and its Renewed Circulation” by writer Boutros Nabati and “Syriac Women’s Journalism” by journalist and writer Valentina Hedo. Afterward, the space was opened for the attendees’ questions and comments, which the speakers answered with politeness and openness.

Finally, an exhibition of Syriac publications, held in cooperation between the Union of Syriac Writers and the Library of Syriac Culture of the General Directorate of Syriac Culture and Arts, was opened. It included a variety of Syriac books and publications by the Union and the General Directorate.

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