Al-Jazeera Banned In Iraq

AlJazeera-Network-vert1

The al-Jazeera television network has been banned in Iraq:

The Iraqi authorities announced on Sunday that they had revoked the operating licences of the broadcaster al-Jazeera and nine other satellite TV channels, alleging that they are promoting a sectarian agenda, as the country grapples with a wave of violence.

The move, effective immediately, comes as Baghdad tries to quell rising unrest in the country after clashes at a protest camp last week.

More than 180 people have been killed in gun battles with security forces and other attacks since the unrest began on Tuesday. The violence follows more than four months of largely peaceful protests by Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority against the Shia-dominated government.

Al-Jazeera, based in Qatar, said it was astonished by the move. “We cover all sides of the stories in Iraq, and have done for many years. The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once though suggests this is an indiscriminate decision,” it said in an emailed statement. “We urge the authorities to uphold freedom for the media to report the important stories taking place in Iraq.”

The channel has aggressively covered the Arab spring uprisings across the region, and has broadcast extensively on the civil war in neighbouring Syria. Qatar itself is a harsh critic of the Syrian regime and a leading backer of the rebels, and is accused by many supporters of Iraq’s government of backing protests in Iraq too.

Iraq and other governments across the Middle East have temporarily shut down al-Jazeera’s offices in the past because they were disgruntled by its coverage.

The other nine channels whose licences were suspended by Iraq’s communications and media commission are al-Sharqiya and al-Sharqiya News, which frequently criticise the government, and seven smaller local channels – Salahuddin, Fallujah, Taghyeer, Baghdad, Babiliya, Anwar 2 and al-Gharbiya.

In a statement posted on its website, the commission blamed the banned stations for the hardening of a sectarian backdrop that is fuelling the violence that followed the deadly clashes at the Hawija camp recently.

Iraq’s media commission accused the stations of misleading and exaggerated reports, as well as of airing “clear calls for disorder and for launching retaliatory criminal attacks against security forces”. It also blamed the stations for promoting “banned terrorist organisations who committed crimes against Iraqi people”.

This seems to be another example of the unhealthy state of Iraqi politics that Steven Taylor wrote about earlier today. Rather than being accepting of news agencies that may portray the government in an unkind light, Nouri al-Malaki and his cronies are taking the same route that authoritarians in the Middle East have always taken in shutting the critics down. Of course, in today’s day and age, it’s much harder to shut out critics. Given that al-Jazeera is a satellite network, it’s hard to see how it can be fully banned in a nation the size of Iraq unless the state has some really advanced jamming equipment, which I don’t believe that they do. You can bar the reporters from the country, but it’s immensely hard to block the information from getting in.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Quick Takes, World Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Paul Hooson says:

    Voice of America and the BBC have also been banned by the same Iraqi government regulatory commission. Despite the fact that this government owes a lot of credit to both the U.S. and UK for being put gaining access to power, this government is as anti-U.S. and anti-Western as they come. If the policy of the Bush Administration was to replace the government of Iraq with one more friendly to the U.S., then that goal certainly failed here. Iran picked up a Shiite ally here and increased their power in the region because of this ill-thought out foreign policy. Iraq and Iran used to be rivals in the region, where the Reagan Administration actually built up the army of former dictator Saddam Hussein to counter Iran. But, with too much power he invaded Kuwait after a dispute over oil rights. This dispute should have been addressed in the courts, and not with war.

    American policy towards Iraq hasn’t been well-thought out for years now. The U.S. is hard pressed to show where policy towards Iraq has achieved much, if any good, for U.S. interests in the region.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Bottom line – 4K+ Americans dead. 30K+ wounded. God knows how many innocents in Iraq were killed and wounded. Six trillion gone.

    All to turn Iraq into a pro-Iran state.

    Oh, Cheney’s pals made billions.

    Have a nice day, GW Bush.

  3. wr says:

    Hard to see how they can ban a satellite channel? Seems to me we’ve done a pretty good job of banning Al Jazeera America right here. Of course, that’s done through the Market and Freedom!, so it’s good that 99% of the American people can’t see the channel. It’s completely and entirely different from the same percentage of Iraqis not being able to hear that point of view.

    Freedom!

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    More than 180 people have been killed in gun battles with security forces and other attacks since the unrest began on Tuesday.

    Ah yes. That “Surge” sure was a unqualified success.