• Population: 24,510,000
  • Internet users: unknown
  • Average charge for 20 hours of connection: 16 euros
  • DAI*: unknown
  • Situation**: middling

The war begun by the United and States and Britain in March 2003 has been very deadly for journalists. But it has also led to freedom of the press and the Internet inside the country.

Before the war, news was controlled by the regime and the media censored, as was access to the Internet. The only ISP, Uruklink, was controlled directly by the culture and information ministry. Iraqis could only go online at 57 "Internet centres" around the country. Private connections were banned because the government did not have the means to censor Internet content.

Post-war explosion of the Internet

Countless privately-owned cybercafés have sprung up under the US-British occupation. For less than a dollar an hour, Baghdad residents can now connect to an uncensored Internet. They are keen on the new medium and crowd into cybercafés to check their e-mail, read the local and foreign press or take part in online discussions. The website of the pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera is one of the most popular sites, as in most Middle Eastern countries.

Private home connections are also available, mainly in Baghdad, costing $28 for 50 hours online.

The United States controls the Internet in Iraq

The United States has total control of the country's telecommunications system. However, no data is available about online monitoring in a country where the flow of information is a sensitive issue.

Three Middle Eastern firms - Asia Cell, Orascom Telecom and Atheer Telecom Iraq - won bids in October 2003 to develop the country's communications infrastructure respectively in the north, centre and south. The only US firm that bid, Worldcom, was not successful.

The French firm Alcatel signed an agreement in September 2003 with Egypt's Orascom Telecom to build a new phone and online network in central Iraq, including Baghdad, and the first phone call was made on it at the end of February 2004. The country should very soon have a fast and reliable telecommunications structure.

Responsibility for bomb attacks claimed online

An Iraqi group close to the Islamist organisation Ansar al-Islam, a suspected ally of Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility in early February 2004 on a Yahoo! discussion forum for a recent attack on the offices of Kurdistan's two main political parties in the northern city of Erbil.


* The DAI (Digital Access Index) has been devised by the International Telecommunications Union to measure the access of a country's inhabitants to information and communication technology. It ranges from 0 (none at all) to 1 (complete access).

** Assessment of the situation in each country (good, middling, difficult, serious) is based on murders, imprisonment or harassment of cyber-dissidents or journalists, censorship of news sites, existence of independent news sites, existence of independent ISPs and deliberately high connection charges.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.