The National Communications and Media Commission decided to suspend and warn local and foreign TV stations. Accordingly, the security forces in Iraq received orders from the government authorities to suspend the activities of 9 local and international prominent TV stations and warn 5 other stations due to their coverage of the local protests in cities in southern and central Iraq.
A fellow journalist working in the Communications and Media Commission said that the Board of Trustees, Chaired by Ashraf Al-Dahan, discussed on Tuesday government recommendations related to media affairs. The Board also discussed the technical monitoring report pertinent to the performance of satellite channels and the violation of the articles of media broadcasting regulations list. The Board recommended that the Executive Management should take the necessary legal action against them which is “suspending and warning”.
The Journalist Freedom Observatory (JFO) got acquainted with a document sent by the Communications and Media Commission to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Interior that recommending security forces to prevent 14 prominent Iraqi and foreign media institutions/outlets from operating in different areas in the country, including Kurdistan Region.
The document stipulated a resolution voted by members of the Board of Trustees stating: “suspending Dijlah, Al-Sharqiya, NRT, Kurdish NRT, Al-Rasheed, Al-Fallujah, Hona Baghdad, Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath, Al-Hurra and Anb TV channels; for violating articles of the media broadcasting regulations list.”
The same document, which was exclusively circulated between the Executive Management Office of the Communications and Media Commission, the office of the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior, also stated: “warning Sky News Arabia, Al-Sumaria, Asia, Rudaw and Ur, to be careful in dealing with the demonstrations and adherent to the articles of media broadcasting regulations list.”
The National Communications and Media Commission issued circulations last month threatening the media, it described as inciting to violence, with administrative and legal sanctions. The Commission demanded the media to take into account the responsibilities in the current sensitive circumstances the country is going through, and to be accurate and professional at dealing the demonstrations, discussing and publishing their realistic; news and not to allow circulation of fabricated news or rumors via social media websites as considering them reliable sources.
The Journalist Freedoms Observatory (JFO) finds that the list of circulations shows that the restrictions on the content are as rudimentary, vague, loose and easily misused.
The list of circulations specifies that media organizations should “refrain from broadcasting any content inciting violence” without providing clear guidelines on what is included in the definition as inciting to violence.
In previous years, the Communications and Media Commission has obliged media organizations to sign regulations that have been described by international organizations as new restrictions. The regulations set by the Commission have given it unlimited power to suspend media broadcasting, shut down media institutions, confiscate equipment, withdraw licenses, impose heavy fines on media institutions and provide lists of all employees and equipment.
On the sixth day of last month, masked gunmen affiliated to the Iraqi government attacked satellite channels, burned part of the headquarters of “Dijlah” TV station; smashed “NRT Arabiya” channel; broke into “Al-Arabiya” and “Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath” offices, stole the equipment of Al-Murjan TV Production Company, and forcibly shut down all the offices of the channels after a series of threats to several media outlets, in attempts to silence the media that covered the protests.
Subsequent to the widespread protests in Iraq, the Government took procedures to shut down some social and news websites and cut off the Internet service entirely. The state-owned telecom and mail company blocked some social networking sites on October 4, including Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, WhatsApp, Viber and Instagram. It lifted the ban on November 21, 2019, however, some sites remained blocked in some areas; some residents from Baghdad, central and southern Iraq said that they were still suffering from a cut-off or slow Internet access.