Thursday, November 12, 2009

So Much For "Freedom Of The Press" In Iraq

The British newspaper/webportal The Guardian is furious over a fine levied by an Iraqi court against one of their reporters, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad for his April article that quoted intelligence officials who accused the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki of becoming "increasingly authoritarian."

The Guardian published a flood of condemnations from around the world against the Iraqi court decision. Honestly, The Guardian laid it on a bit thick, but the underlying message is a good one: how can we consider the new government in Iraq truly democratic if it is so quick to try and muzzle the press over coverage that is unflattering to its leader? Some of the strongest condemnations came from the Arabic-language newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, which called the Iraqi tribunal a "kangaroo court" and said: "Despite the fact that the Americans spent $800bn to create a democracy and promote freedom of expression, what we have seen in Iraq is an appalling media where the opposition points of view rarely surface. It is sectarian or factional or financed by the Americans."

Much of the criticism continued in that vein, with words like "mockery" and "affront" thrown around a lot. And this isn't the first time charges like this have been leveled at al-Maliki, back in January the Los Angeles Times did a long piece on the growing authoritarianism of his regime, though the Times was never sued.

Mamoun Fandy from the think-tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies though did see some signs of progress in the slander lawsuit. He said, "it is new that a leader or an intelligence agency in that part of the world takes a journalist in their jurisdiction to court instead of jailing him or ordering him being bumped off."
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