He said that the commission officials confirmed in that meeting that they had no issue with the Baghdad bureau’s coverage, but threatened that they would shut down the office to send a message to Al Jazeera’s Doha headquarters.
Ziad Ajili, executive director of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in Iraq, told Human Rights Watch that he subsequently tried to contact other government officials to urge them, without success, not to go ahead with the closure order.
On April 25, Ibrahim said, his office received a letter from the media commission dated April 14, saying that it had decided to withdraw Al Jazeera’s work permit for 2016, and close the office for one year. The letter, which Human Rights Watch has seen, stated that this decision was based on “…your continuous violations and offenses and going too far with your media rhetoric that incites sectarianism and violence, and after using all legal means to have you redress your status – despite repeated demands to that effect – and giving you the chance to improve your media rhetoric in compliance with professional codes.”
This is not the first time the commission has suspended Al Jazeera’s operating license. In 2013, it suspended the licenses of Al Jazeera and nine other channels, alleging they were reporting with a sectarian tone and promoting unnamed terrorist organizations in their coverage of Sunni demonstrations against the government.
The United States-led Coalition Provisional Authority established the media commission in March 2004, following the overthrow of the government of Saddam Hussein. CPA Order Number 65 allows for commission decisions to be appealed through a hearing before an independent appeals board.