10 August 2004

Iraqi commission to restrict media coverage

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has established a new media commission that will impose restrictions on print and broadcast media, the London-based Financial Times reported.

Media advocacy groups are worried that the committee will threaten press freedom in the war-torn country.

The Higher Media Commission will issue a set of restrictions -- called 'red lines -- for Iraqi media. Ibrahim Janabi, who heads the new committee, said the restrictions are not yet final but will include unwarranted criticism of Prime Minister Allawi.

Media groups are criticizing the decision. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent an open letter to Allawi on July 29, saying the commission is a potential 'threat to press freedom.' CPJ urged Janabi to to ensure that any actions of the Higher Media Commission comply with international standards of free expression.

'The restrictive media regulations and censorship described by Janabi would undermine the very foundation of a democratic society by restricting the free flow of information,' CPJ Executive Director, Ann J. Cooper, wrote in the letter.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is also urging Iraqi leaders to abandon plans for new media bodies that might compromise free speech and press freedom.

'Democracy in Iraq will be won by defending human rights and the people's right to know, not by returning to the bad old days of censorship and intimidation of journalists' said IFJ General Secretary, Aidan White.

Just more of the inevitable advance of democracy in the new Iraq. The Iraq Transitional Administrative Law's bill of rights is proving about as effectual as the same lists in other Middle Eastern constitutions, such as the one in Kuwait which has just banned Fahrenheit 911.

No doubt human rights crusader George Bush will shortly be acting on his principles and speaking truth to power about these attacks on the freedom of the press.

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