Voice of America’s Kurdish Service is known for impactful reporting. Over the past few weeks, Zhiyar Omer Muhammed, the Service’s stringer in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, filed several reports documenting the growing problem of pharmaceutical smuggling between the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq and Iran. Her investigative reporting showed how legal pain killers are being sold on the Iraqi black market to smugglers who move them into Iran where they are modified into man-made illegal narcotics using a process similar to the one used in the West to manufacture meth using antihistamine medications.
This week the Kurdistan Regional Government updated the region’s criminal code to strengthen the penalties for buying and selling pharmaceuticals on the black market and for smuggling pharmaceuticals across the border. When interviewed by VOA, the chief of the pharmaceutical office of the Kurdistan Regional National Security Council said that the change in the laws was a direct result of reporting presented through VOA’s Kurd Connection television program.
“Through our stringers in the region we have been able to have tangible impact on the ground,” says VOA Kurdish Service Chief Fakhria Jawhary. “We are focusing on important issues that affect people’s lives.”
VOA’s Kurdish Service reaches its audience on radio, television and the Internet. In addition to shortwave and AM, the programs are broadcast by FM affiliates in several cities in Iraq (Arbil, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra) and twice weekly NRT TV in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, carries the Service’s TV program. Audience feedback indicates that the broadcasts are popular among listeners in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. According to the latest survey, 9 out of 10 weekly users deem VOA Kurdish news trustworthy. VOA’s Kurdish Service is the only international broadcaster that speaks to the Kurds of the Middle East in their main dialects, Sorani and Kurmanji.