Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns yesterday’s decision by Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission to suspend the licences of 10 foreign-based satellite TV channels for “inciting violence and sectarianism.”
Reporters Without Borders said:
“This draconian and disproportionate decision has seriously endangered freedom of information. Although the media must act responsibly, they are just doing their job when they cover Iraq’s current serious divisions and tension.
“We urge the Media and Communications Commission to quickly rescind this decision and to allow the media to cover all developments of general interest throughout the country.”
Iraq has experienced sectarian conflicts for years but the surge in violence of the past week suggests that it could escalate into civil war at any time. More than 230 people have been killed and at least 350 have been injured in a wave of Sunni protests against Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s government.
The satellite TV stations affected by the ban have all been covering these developments. Some carried speeches by Sunni leaders on 26 April urging young men to take up arms against the government. The Media and Communications Commission subsequently announced it was suspending the licences of “certain satellite TV channels using a language that encourages violence and sectarianism.”
Nine of the ten TV stations are Sunni-financed. They include Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and Dubai-based Al-Sharqiya, which is owned by a rich Iraqi businessman and has many viewers among the Iraqi public. The other stations are Baghdad, Al-Sharqiya News, Al-Fallujah, Babylonian, Salah Al-Din, Al-Tagheer, Al-Gharbiya and Anwar 2.
The decision to suspend their licences is widely seen as way of silencing the government’s opponents. As the stations are all based abroad, the Iraqi government cannot prevent them from broadcasting, but their Iraq-based crews will no longer be able to cover events and move about the country.
(Source: Reporters Without Borders)