The planned second session of the new Iraqi parliament was due to be held on Tuesday, but considering the lack of progress in forming the next government, few were surprised when it was postponed.
“We are postponing the session until further notice because the political entities failed to reach any agreement”, said Fuad Massum, who as the oldest member of Parliament holds the post of caretaker Speaker. “We held a meeting this morning with the heads of the parliamentary blocs and we agreed to give more time to [the] political entities to reach agreement.”
A spokeswoman for Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition said “the root cause of the problem is sectarian rather than political or national”.
That being the case, it is particularly worrying to see that the government has proposed setting up a special court to try journalists – the potential for abuse of such a court in a society where sectarianism is a problem is obvious.
To many it seems bizarre that the government would choose to focus on the ‘problem’ of journalism, when press freedom is key to solving two of Iraq’s biggest challenges: the smooth running of the democratic process, and the eradication of corruption.
Whether this, and the so-called ‘Journalists Protection Law’, are really moves by the authorities to control the media, is of course still open to debate. But according to Iraq’s constitution, “special or exceptional courts may not be established”, so we can expect some legal challenges to this initiative.
In an interesting piece of timing, UNESCO is allocating funds for the “promotion of free expression and media pluralism, associated with the free flow of information [in Iraq]”.
An environment is which information can be reported without fear is important for the people of Iraq, and also for the legions of foreign businesses that will be required to bring Iraq’s economy back to prosperity.