Religious, social and political factors play a major role in the forms of communication among the Iraqi people. Media and social networking sites represent the main means of communication. These factors constitute the Iraqi public opinion and move it negatively or positively.
Religious and ethnic diversity among Sunni and Shia Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks. Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds play a role in defining the Iraqi people as a whole. After 2003, the sectarian and national conflict in the country has strengthened the religious affiliation of citizens more than national identity, as noted by the article titled The crisis of national identity in Iraq.
In December 2017, after the end of the war against ISIS in Iraq, a unified national feeling was found for the first time, but soon it began to fade with the organising of the legislative elections in May 2018, because of competition among the Iraqi parties, and later because of the demonstrations and the situation in Basra in the South of the country.
The clerics are the main element in communicating with citizens through religious sermons organised in the centers of worship on a daily basis, most notably on Fridays, which include large gatherings of citizens. These clerics give long speeches on political or social issues varying between positive proposals calling for tolerance and cooperation and others which are radical. The content of these sermons is rather fragmented on a case by case basis and depends heavily on important daily events, such as terrorist bombings, forming of new governments, drought crisis in the country, etc.
Most of these sermons are broadcasted on television channels of political parties. The sermon of Shiite cleric Ali Al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, is one of the most important religious sermons and is entirely broadcast live by Al-Furat, Al-Anwar and Karbala channels. Most other channels broadcast excerpts from the sermon in their news bulletins.
The tribal nature of the vast majority of the Iraqi society gives tribal leaders a prominent role in communication within the society itself. The weakness of the state after 2003 and the spread of violence drove the Iraqi people to request protection from their tribes instead of the government. The tribes now play a role in issuing judgment along with the judiciary in criminal incidents related to murder, kidnapping and theft. The influence of tribal law is increasing on all aspects of life in rural areas and villages, and less in urban areas. It is clearly increasing in the cities of southern Iraq such as Basra, Maysan, DhiQar, Muthanna, Karbala and Najaf.
Before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, tribal law was limited in effect and only applied in few villages, but due to the weakness of the state and its security forces after 2003 it made its comeback in urban areas, especially in the capital Baghdad.
After 2003, the political crisis and the challenges which the country was facing in the path towards democracy after decades of dictatorship have become another factor in communication among the Iraqi people. The conflict among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish parties over authority and relative positions has been reflected on citizens.
The debate among politicians gets the attention of television channels, newspapers and news agencies, so the citizens are in direct contact with politics and play a role in making their personal views on issues that concern the country.
Recently, the social networking sites have also played an important role in the communication among the Iraqi people. The past decade was mainly based on clerics, clans and politicians but social networking sites opened a large opportunity especially for the youths who are now able to learn new experiences and concepts in art, culture, religion and society.
Dozens of pages and personal accounts of bloggers on social networking sites play a role in Iraqi communication. The topics of these pages are varied, mostly social-related on customs and traditions, spreading jokes, criticising the bad economic conditions, criticising politicians, publishing news, photos and videos about artists, actors and athletes. Some examples are BROTHERS-IRQ and Baghdad1, attracting mainly a young audience.
Also armed groups use social networking sites to promote their own goals. ISIS opened pages to disseminate its activities and battles, but most of them were closed by the administrations of social networking sites. Other armed groups, such as the Shiite factions, have pages on social networking sites and their audiences are limited to loyalists, especially young people who view them as heroes.
Some of these Shiite armed groups are moderate and respect government orders, such as Abbas's combat and Saraya A-Salam, while other Shiite armed groups such as Nujaba, AsaibAhl al-Haq and Hezbollah'sBattalions are accused of being loyal to Iran.
The Iraqi government is dependent on the Shiite armed groups that fought alongside the regular army against ISIS to maintain security in the country.
Civil initiatives on art and music are highly popular, for example the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra's monthly concerts. Campaigns like I am Iraqi.. I read attract thousands of Iraqis in most cities. Its audience is composed mainly of young people across religions and nationalities without discrimination. This campaign unites Muslims, Christians, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Turkmen, and aims to spread culture and education.
There are many websites supported by international organisations that promote positive events in society and aim to create a sense of national unity among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds by shaping the Iraqi public opinion through their pages on social networking sites such as Yalla and Raise Your Voice.
On the other side, there are anonymous pages, considered by the Iraqi people as electronic armies of parties, which contribute to stir up divisions and spread fake news inside society as a result of the political conflict in the country.
The political conflict among the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish parties influences the fake pages and fake news phenomenon which increases in times of crisis or during important events in the country, for example in the days of general elections.
Fake news are aimed indistinctly at Sunnis, Shiites or Kurds, and in some cases they are the product of internal struggles within these parties. Up to a few years ago, the Iraqi people used to give credit to these news, especially when they resonated with their views and tendencies.
But recently some media projects like Tech 4 Peace and Niqash have started to monitor fake news and provide debunking evidence to the audience, for example when old images or videos unrelated to Iraq are presented by fake pages as new images and videos about the country.