Iraqi Government Shutters Television Stations It Doesn't Like

from the the-more-things-change dept

Some of us had hoped that the liberation in Iraq would finally produce an example of a once clamped-down, dictatorial regime giving way to a pluralistic government in the Middle East. The theory was that after years of oppressive rule by the minority Sunni population, an inclusive government would result in functioning democracy, with all the benefits that go along with it. Chief amongst those benefits is the right to free speech, which requires allowing an open and free press. Unfortunately, that hope dwindled somewhat years back, when the Iraqi government joined the list of nations that sought to censor the internet to protect its own power. The importance of that move was probably lost on many people who failed to understand that it was an absolute negation of the freedom gained only years before.

And now that negation is apparently continuing under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, as they have ordered 10 television networks to be shut down on the charges that they simply don’t care for their reporting.

Iraq’s government ordered 10 television networks shut down Sunday, accusing them of stoking sectarian violence with “unprofessional” and “unethical” coverage of recent clashes in the country’s north. Sunday’s order from the Communications and Media Commission includes the Qatar-based satellite network Al Jazeera and eight outlets aimed at the country’s Sunni Arab minority. Ahmed Saeed, a reporter for Baghdad Satellite TV, said the decree effectively halts his network’s reporting.

This move is wrong-headed on several levels. First, if media outlets had to be shut down whenever they reported inaccurate information, even America would be left with zero media outlets. Second, considering the targets of these shutdowns, there is a roughly 100% chance that they will be seen as a stifling of speech specifically on the Sunni minority, once in power and now with a minor seat at the government table. The tone here is one of simple revenge rather than any sincere attempt at stifling bad information. Shias censoring Sunnis isn’t the way to stop internal conflicts. One needs only look to Syria for evidence that stifling speech won’t stop the violence.

And most importantly, moves like this will simply push Iraq back to the very arena in which its people suffered for so many years. Censorship of speech and the press is the field upon which folks like Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida play, and have been playing for longer than al-Maliki’s government. They’re better at it than he is. The cure is open culture, pluralism, and free speech. Push Iraq away from openness and you place it in danger of fascism and theocracy once more.

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Comments on “Iraqi Government Shutters Television Stations It Doesn't Like”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, historically it takes about 30 years for democracy to settle in a country (USSR and Yugoslavian countries are still not true democracies, though the baltics are doing well, while Belarus and to a lesser degree Macedonia are still more or less dictatorships). Iraq is nowhere near that point. It is going to get worse before it gets better! The people have to stand up against this kind of censorship before the governments learn not to do it. To me, this is about the regional political situation. Neighboring Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran is probably not the ideal place to start transition to democracy. Turkey and Kuwait are far better in that regard, but still…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

this also happened in Romania, a member country of the European Union where the state took financial control by force of a TV company named OTV (Oglinda TV)and then a year later they revoked their broadcast licence on the grounds that they didn’t want to pay their bills. (This even though the company was set to receive a few millions of euros for broadcasting contracts from the very same state and other companies controlled by it)

yup, read that again: an EU member state took FINANCIAL control of a company and then they shut it down for NOT WANTING to pay the bills.

how is that much different than Iraq?

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Are you surprised?

I think the AC was specifically talking about TV media…I mean yes some is censored, but not to the degree that it interferes with the daily lives of American citizens.

However, and I don’t mean to argue as you do make a valid point, but there is a lot of conflation in saying that what has occurred in Iraq is comparable to the actions of the US. The US actually believes that there is an immediate threat in those cases, and the key difference is that the goal in those situations is done with the best intent….to stop a perceived threat and not cut citizens off completely from the media in question. They don’t want to shut down Wikileaks…they just want Assange.

Wikileaks is not blocked from being used or visited inside the US unless Wikileaks controls which regions will see it. As far as the US is concerned, Wikileaks is at the mercy of the decisions of Julius Assange. He can pull a Tet Offensive tactic to get the media rallying with him on his actions in the same way the Vietcong did by taking advantage of a treaty…and guess what…it has worked the same exact way.

Sorry to stray from subject but the Tết Offensive was tactically chosen to show the media and people back in the US that our troops needed to pull out and start rallying against the Vietnam War. All people saw in the coverage was how we got our asses caught off guard during the Vietnamese Lunar New Year “Tết” in which there were to be a ceasefire out of respect for the religious holiday…Less than 48 hours later we retook every single position taken from us with half the forces that the Vietcong come in with.

So while I stray off subject, I should point out that while I love the concept of Wikileaks, I don’t like Assange as he has run away from his issue rather than face it…he has the power to manipulate public opinion and only tries to do it when shaping how innocent he is trying to look to us. He has been doing it the same way that the North Vietnam military factions had done over the years…through media coverage of his own “persecution”.

Anonymous Howard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Are you surprised?

I never narrowed the concept of “example” to TV. That was AC’s fault that he can’t dissociate from the current event in the article.

What I meant is there is plenty of examples of censoring free speech, critics etc in the US, not just by the government, but by corporations and individuals, which made possible by stupid laws your government put in place.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Are you surprised?

The They ™ don’t have to:
the KORPORATE media are co-opted, complacent, and corrupted; they generally don’t report ANY shit which is threatening to Empire, only supportive propaganda, so there is no need to shut down critical media outlets (especially teevee) BECAUSE THEY DON’T EXIST…

you want to see where Empire will care about the pitiful mewlings of its subjects ? google ‘assassination politics’ and let me know what you find out…
(hint: one of our first cases of ‘thoughcrime’…)

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

jameshogg says:

Progress will be made... now that it can.

If you think it is bad now, just imagine how worse it would have been if Saddam Hussein was still in power. Or his two sadistic sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein.

Always remember: Middle Eastern revolutions gained inspiration and ground on the days that Saddam Hussein was tried for war crimes on TV for all to see. The U.S. mass media decided to keep all of that unreported for so long.

Remember how lots of people laughed at the “domino theory” and democracy being spread across the region? Well what do you call the mass toppling of dictators and huge spread of Arab Spring movements? That’s what we on the Left call “destabilisation”. We don’t say it like it’s a bad thing.

Getting rid of Saddam, the 1984-esque totalitarian dictator, was a move that was finally on the right side of history.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Progress will be made... now that it can.

“Getting rid of Saddam, the 1984-esque totalitarian dictator, was a move that was finally on the right side of history.”

On this I couldn’t agree more. The method for going to war sucked, the execution was lacking in some areas, but the choice to remove a brutal, genocidal dictator can’t be a wrong one….

Spointman (profile) says:

The theory was that after years of oppressive rule by the minority Sunni population, an inclusive government would result in functioning democracy, with all the benefits that go along with it.

This theory could only be postulated by someone who has absolutely no experience with the modern Middle East (as in the last half-century or so). It’s pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking that has no basis or grounding whatsoever in the reality on the ground. Understand this: the majority of the citizens of the countries in the MidEast DO NOT WANT democracy. They just want to pretend they have it so they can seize power and use “democracy” as a club to beat down their political, religious, or personal opponents. It will require multiple generations before this mindset passes.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I wouldn’t go as far as to blame the Sunni vs Shiite situation…Saddam Hussein was not a true Muslim and his chosen denomination therein was used as a political front…I simply think that the man was just that evil plain and simple…He kept his own people divided amongst their own beliefs and took advantage of their zeal in their beliefs as much as he did their fear of his absolutism.

JJJoseph (profile) says:

Democracy? You're kidding!

@Wally:”Saddam Hussein was not a true Muslim and his chosen denomination therein was used as a political front”

Saddam, like Joe Stalin, had limited ability to control the disruptive Muslims in his midst. The only thing they understand is terminal brute force, and democracy means nothing to them. For sure, there is a better solution somewhere, but it hasn’t emerged yet. The Muslims in Russia are still waging chaos and terror, and the Sunnis in Iraq are doing likewise. They don’t do democracy. For now, an iron fist will have to do. Their TV stations must be smashed, and their mullahs put in chains. That’s the best we can ever hope for.

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