Target: Iraqi Media Commission
Goal: Lift unlawful ban of satellite television stations
Iraq’s media commission has suspended the licenses of ten satellite television stations, effectively ending their ability to broadcast. The suspension is an arbitrary one, given that officials could not cite any broken laws or evidence that led to the suspension of the stations’ licenses. Demand that the media commission reinstate these innocent stations’ licenses immediately.
These suspensions, issued during a time of civil unrest and anti-government demonstrations, solely targeted stations that broadcast anti-government sentiments, leaving state-run channels untouched. The head of media regulation, Mujahid Abu al-Hail claims that the licenses have been suspended because the stations of interest have been promoting violence and sectarianism and that they had “broadcast speeches and fatwas from extremist sheikhs that encouraged violence.” Al-Jazeera is among the stations.
Human Rights Watch observes that “The Iraqi government has repeatedly targeted the news media over what it perceives as unfavorable reporting . . . But the license suspensions represent a new level of interference and coincide with a steep rise in sectarian fighting and a major political crisis.” Iraq’s Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and the ICCPR’s article 19 holds that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression … to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.” It is wrong and unlawful to suspend a station because it broadcasts things that portray the government in an unappealing light. In addition to this, the suspension of the stations strips citizens of their right to knowledge. No matter what ideals they support, Iraqi citizens deserve to be informed about what is going on in their nation. Banning extremist speeches and fatwas only disservices the people and leaves them blind to what is going on during a time when a civil war may be impending.
The media commission is not only leaving its citizens in the dark, it is violating Iraq’s free speech laws. Continued censoring of these stations is only going to further anger citizens and leave them less and less informed. In addition, there is no direct correlation between these broadcasts and a rise in violence. The Iraqi media commission needs follow national laws and respect its citizens’ right to information – demand that they lift the station suspensions immediately.
Dear Iraqi Media Commission,
Your recent ban of ten satellite television stations is not only unacceptable, it is against the law. The commission is unable to cite any legal reasons for suspending these stations, making this suspension a direct violation of Iraq’s free speech law. A senior official has admitted that there is no reason for these suspensions other than that the stations broadcast extremist speeches.
The right to information is one that is afforded to the Iraqi people, and whether or not they are in support of such extremism, they deserve to know what is going on in their country. Though you may fear that these broadcasts will incite more infighting, there is no direct correlation between the broadcasts and a rise in violence. It seems as if the suspensions exist solely to protect the government from being portrayed in a negative light. This is no reason to keep the Iraqi people in the dark, this is no reason to violate national laws. Please reinstate these stations’ licenses as soon as possible.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: KevinAction via Wikimedia Commons