Iraq’s Journalists Under Attack
An Iraqi group monitoring violations against journalists warned of a new government decree that could force the shutting of 44 media agencies, including the BBC and Voice of America outlets.
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory obtained a document purportedly sent by the Communications and Media Commission to the Interior Ministry. The document listed 44 agencies, both domestic and foreign, the commission says lack the proper licenses to operate. However, some agencies claim they have the required licenses and operate well within Iraqi law.
For years, the Iraqi government has harassed journalists and organizations it has seen as a threat. One of the stations on the list, Baghdadiya TV, has been shut down before and even seen the occupation of its station in the past for its coverage of a massacre at a Christian church. Other stations are less politically inclined, but their religious affiliations may be the focus of the government’s attention.
The alleged censorship of the media comes at a time when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is under fire for marginalizing the Sunnis and attacking political rivals. It also immediately follows a large demonstration organized by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr last week to protest the attack against freedom of the press and opinion.
Meanwhile, local authorities in Kirkuk arrested a journalist as he was covering a police operation against the homeless. He was released five hours later, but only after his camera was completely erased.