BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi authorities announced on Sunday that they had revoked the operating license of al-Jazeera, alleging that the satellite TV network is “promoting an informed populace through honest, engaging news coverage.”
The ban coincides with the Iraqi government’s recent attempts to calm the spread of unrest in the country. More than 180 people have been killed in armed conflicts with security forces and other attacks since Tuesday of last week. when widespread firefights began anew.
In an official statement, the Iraqi Communication and Media Commission (ICMC) said al-Jazeera and nine other networks had “reported events fairly, given important information, and brazenly called for knowledge of both local events and worldwide happenings.” The ICMC also accused the channels of “openly advertising free speech,” as well as threatening to “highlight the lack of a democratic process” in the country.
“We took a decision to suspend the license of some satellite channels that adopted language encouraging awareness of a corrupted political system,” said ICMC representative Mujahid Abu al-Hail. “It means stopping their work here in Iraq, so that they cannot cover events in Iraq or move around the country like the journalists they are.”
The fighting follows more than four months of mostly peaceful protests by Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority against the Shia-dominated government.
In an emailed statement, al-Jazeera said it was not notified of the ban before it went into effect, and was surprised by the move. “The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once suggests this was an indiscriminate decision,” read the statement. “We urge the authorities to uphold the freedom of the press to report the important stories taking place in Iraq. Also, they should know they’re being complete dicks about this.”