BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi press freedom group condemned authorities on Sunday for ordering the closure of 44 news organizations, including a U.S.-funded radio station. The country's media commission said it was only targeting unlicensed operations.
No media outlet is reported to have been forced to close so far. But critics say Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom they accuse of sidelining and silencing opponents in order to consolidate his Shiite party's power, is sending a warning to the media.
The dispute calls into question the future of Iraq's fledgling democracy, nine years after the ouster of Saddam Hussein and six months after the last of the U.S. troops who overthrew him withdrew.
Ziyad al-Aajely, head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, called the move to shut down media offices "a setback to the freedom of journalism in Iraq."
"It is a government message to the media outlets that if you are not with us, then you are against us," he said by telephone.
The list, which officials say was compiled a month ago, only became public on Sunday.
Most of the 44 newspapers, radio and television stations targeted for shutdown are Iraqi, although foreign broadcasters including the BBC and Voice of America were on the list as well as the U.S.-funded Radio Sawa. The BBC and Voice of America have closed most permanent news operations in Iraq.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Iraq 2.0: Maliki's government moves to close 44 media outlets